Beta-cryptoxanthin as a source of vitamin A

J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Jul;95(9):1786-94. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6942. Epub 2014 Nov 5.


Beta-cryptoxanthin is a common carotenoid that is found in fruit, and in human blood and tissues. Foods that are rich in beta-cryptoxanthin include tangerines, persimmons and oranges. Beta-cryptoxanthin has several functions that are important for human health, including roles in antioxidant defense and cell-to-cell communication. Most importantly, beta-cryptoxanthin is a precursor of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient needed for eyesight, growth, development and immune response. We evaluate the evidence for beta-cryptoxanthin as a vitamin A-forming carotenoid in this paper. Observational, in vitro, animal model and human studies suggest that beta-cryptoxanthin has greater bioavailability from its common food sources than do alpha- and beta-carotene from theirs. Although beta-cryptoxanthin appears to be a poorer substrate for beta-carotene 15,15' oxygenase than is beta-carotene, animal model and human studies suggest that the comparatively high bioavailability of beta-cryptoxanthin from foods makes beta-cryptoxanthin-rich foods equivalent to beta-carotene-rich foods as sources of vitamin A. These results mean that beta-cryptoxanthin-rich foods are probably better sources of vitamin A, and more important for human health in general, than previously assumed.

Keywords: beta-cryptoxanthin; conversion; metabolism; retinol; tangerines; vitamin A.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Carotenoids / analysis
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Citrus / chemistry
  • Cryptoxanthins / analysis
  • Cryptoxanthins / metabolism*
  • Diospyros / chemistry
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Vitamin A / analysis
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*
  • beta Carotene / analysis
  • beta Carotene / metabolism
  • beta-Carotene 15,15'-Monooxygenase / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene
  • BCO1 protein, human
  • beta-Carotene 15,15'-Monooxygenase