Canthaxanthin health benefit and risks
February 1 2017

Canthaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment with antioxidant properties but at least one researcher has raised safety issues in consuming excessive amounts of this carotenoid due to possible accumulation in the retina.

Benefit of canthaxanthin
Xanthophylls are carotenoids abundant in the human food supply. Lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin are major xanthophyll carotenoids in human plasma. The consumption of these xanthophylls is directly associated with reduction in the risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, age-related macular degeneration, and cataract formation.

Antioxidant benefit
Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory neuroprotective effects of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin in nerve growth factor differentiated PC12 cells.
J Food Sci. 2009; Dept of Food and Nutrition, Providence Univ, Taichung County, Taiwan.
Nerve growth factor differentiated PC12 cells were used to examine the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. Based on the observed antioxidative and anti-inflammatory protection from astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, these 2 compounds were potent agents against neurodegenerative disorder.

Cholesterol influence
beta-Carotene and canthaxanthin alter the pro-oxidation and antioxidation balance in rats fed a high-cholesterol and high-fat diet.
Br J Nutr. 2008. School of Nutrition and Health Sciences, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan.
This study investigated the effects of beta-carotene and canthaxanthin on lipid peroxidation and antioxidative enzyme activities in rats fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet. Wistar rats were divided into six groups. Negative control group (group NC) received a high-fat (150 g/kg) diet; cholesterol control group (group CC) received a high-cholesterol (10 g/kg), high-fat diet. The other four groups were fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet supplemented with crystal beta-carotene (group BC), beta-carotene beadlet (group BB), canthaxanthin beadlet (group CX) or alpha-tocopherol (group AT). These findings suggest that beta-carotene and canthaxanthin altered the pro-oxidation and antioxidation balance and suppressed cholesterol-induced oxidative stress via modulation of antioxidant system and cholesterol metabolism.

Canthaxanthin caution, side effects, danger, safety
Interactions between canthaxanthin and lipid membranes - possible mechanisms of canthaxanthin toxicity.
Cell Mol Biol Lett. 2009. Sujak A. Department of Physics, University of Life Sciences, Lublin, Poland.
Canthaxanthin (beta, beta-carotene 4, 4' dione) is used widely as a drug or as a food and cosmetic colorant, but it may have some undesirable effects on human health, mainly caused by the formation of crystals in the macula lutea membranes of the retina. This condition is called canthaxanthin retinopathy. It has been shown that this type of dysfunction of the eye is strongly connected with damage to the blood vessels around the place of crystal deposition. This paper is a review of the experimental data supporting the hypothesis that the interactions of canthaxanthin with the lipid membranes and the aggregation of this pigment may be the factors enhancing canthaxanthin toxicity towards the macula vascular system. All the results of the experiments that have been done on model systems such as monolayers of pure canthaxanthin and mixtures of canthaxanthin and lipids, oriented bilayers or liposomes indicate a very strong effect of canthaxanthin on the physical properties of lipid membranes, which may explain its toxic action, which leads to the further development of canthaxanthin retinopathy.

Microalgae and carathaxanthin
Certain microalgae are a source of canthaxanthin including the microalga Chlorella zofingiensis.