Xanthophyll: Health benefits and therapeutic insights

Life Sci. 2020 Jan 1:240:117104. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2019.117104. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Xanthophylls constitute a major part of carotenoids in nature. They are an oxidized version of carotenoid. Xanthophyll has widely drawn scientists' attentions in terms of its functionality, bioavailability and diversity. An assortment of xanthophyll varieties includes lutein, zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, capsanthin, astaxanthin, and fucoxanthin. Chemically, lutein and zeaxanthin are dipolar carotenoids with hydroxyl groups at both ends of their molecules that bestow hydrophilic properties to them. Hydrophilic affinity in lutein and zeaxanthin makes better bioavailability in reaction with singlet oxygen in water phase, whereas non-polar carotenoids have shown to have less efficiency in scavenging free radicals. Xanthophylls have been studied for their effects in a wide variety of diseases including neurologic, ophthalmologic, oral, allergic and immune diseases. This review highlights pharmaco-pharmaceutical applications of xanthophylls as well asits drug interactions with beta-carotene. Different types of xanthophylls have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. Fucoxanthin demonstrated potent antiplasmodial activity. Lutein and zeaxanthin prevent the progression of age related macular degeneration. They have also demonstrated promising effects on uveitis, retinitis pigmentosa, scleritis, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal ischemia and choroideremia. Astaxanthin showed to have skin protecting effects against ultraviolet light injury. Astaxanthin have anti-allergic activity against the contact dermatitis especially to treat the patients having adverse reactions induced by steroids. Astaxanthin has been reported to exert beneficial effects in preventing oral lichen planus and early stage cancers. β-cryptoxanthin has been considered a good candidate for prevention of bone loss via osteoblastic bone formation and inhibiting osteoclastic bone resorption. There is also some concern that higher dose of xanthophylls may be linked to increased risk of skin cancer and gastric adenocarcinoma. However this increased risk was not statistically significant when adjusted for confounding factors. Further researches including clinical studies are needed to better evaluate the efficacy and safety of xanthophylls in prevention and treatment of different diseases.

Keywords: Lutein; Supplement; Xanthophyll; Zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Primary Prevention
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology*
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Xanthophylls