The ability of xanthophylls (canthaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin) as chain-breaking antioxidants was investigated in peroxyl radical-mediated peroxidation of phosphatidylcholine (PC) liposomes under atmospheric conditions using lipid-soluble and water-soluble radical generators. These xanthophylls retarded the chain propagation reaction of phosphatidylcholine hydroperoxides (PC-OOH) formation, although their activities to trap chain-carrying peroxyl radical were much less than that of alpha-tocopherol. In chick plasma studies, it was observed that endogenious xanthophylls participated in the antioxidant defenses against the attack of aqueous peroxyl radical. It was concluded that xanthophylls possess the ability to act as chain-breaking antioxidants in the peroxidation of membraneous phospholipids. Dietary xanthophylls may, therefore, be helpful in resisting membraneous phospholipids against oxidative damage in vivo.