The xanthophylls are a group of phytonutrients (non-essential, plant based nutrients that have numerous health benefits in humans). There are 5 main xanthophylls:
The xanthophylls can be sourced from fish, fruits, vegetables and certain peppers and spices. Whilst they are not classed as essential nutrients, studies have shown that they have a wide range of potential health benefits in humans. In this article I will be providing a full overview of these and listing 20 of the promising xanthophyll health benefits:
1) ACTING AS ANTIOXIDANTS:- All 5 of the xanthophylls are powerful antioxidants which protect your body’s cells from free radicals. Free radicals are harmful substances that get released into your body’s cells during oxygen based reactions. Research suggests that they can cause cancer, diabetes, premature ageing and a weak immune system. By consuming plenty of xanthophylls you can take full advantage of their antioxidant properties and keep your body’s cells safe from free radicals.
2) BOOSTING YOUR BLOOD:- Your blood is crucial for the overall health of your body. It carries oxygen to where it is needed, supports the immune system (in the form of white blood cells) and much more. Fortunately, early evidence indicates that both astaxanthin and lutein may be able to keep the blood healthy. Astaxanthin may be able to reduce high blood pressure whilst lutein may support good blood flow by preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in your artery walls and restrict the flow of blood). However, further studies are needed before these blood boosting properties can be confirmed.
3) BOOSTING YOUR EYES:- The xanthophylls have shown a lot of promise when it comes to the eyes. For starters, cryptoxanthin can be used by your body to create vitamin A which promotes healthy vision and night vision.
Astaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin may also boost the eyes further. Early studies have shown that astaxanthin may prevent cataracts (clouding on the lenses of the eyes), glaucoma (a disease that damages your optic nerve and inhibits vision) and macular edema (a condition where fluid protein builds up under the macula of the eye and causes it to thicken and swell) whilst lutein might be able to protect against cataracts, macular degeneration and photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light). Additionally, zeaxanthin may be able to prevent age related macular degeneration and cararacts. However, more research is required before these possible eye boosting properties can be confirmed.
4) BOOSTING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM:- Your immune system is a set of important biological structures and processes that keeps your body safe from disease and infection. The good news is that cryptoxanthin can indirectly boost your immune system by being converted into vitamin A. In addition to this, early studies suggest that astaxanthin may boost your immune system but further studies are required before this can be confirmed.
5) BOOSTING YOUR REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM:- Another of the important xanthophyll benefits is that they keep your reproductive system strong. Cryptoxanthin is converted into vitamin A inside the body which then supports healthy fetal growth and healthy sperm production. Additionally, provisional evidence has suggested that astaxanthin may boost reproductive health but further studies are required before these properties can be confirmed.
6) KEEPING YOUR EYES, SKIN AND MUCUS LINING MOIST:- 1 of the useful cryptoxanthin benefits is that it indirectly keeps your eyes, mucus lining and skin moist by being converted into vitamin A. This ensures that they can operate smoothly and prevents irritation.
7) IMPROVING ENDURANCE AND STAMINA:- If you want to improve your performance during exercise then you may be interested in this potential astaxanthin benefit. Studies have shown that astaxanthin might increase endurance and stamina by boosting the mitochondria and preventing the buildup of lactic acid during exercise. However, more research is required before this benefit can be confirmed.
8) PREVENTING ARTHRITIS:- Arthritis is a painful disorder where your joints become inflamed, stiff and swollen. The good news is that early evidence suggests that cryptoxanthin may be able to prevent arthritis and help you avoid these painful symptoms.
9) PREVENTING CANCER:- Cancer is a nasty disease where your body’s cells start to grow in a rapid, out of control way. This leads to the formation of a tumour (an abnormal mass of tissues) which may then become cancerous. If this tumour does become cancerous it destroys the surrounding cells and moves to other areas of the body. Fortunately, provisional research indicates that astaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and lutein may all be able to prevent this nasty disease. However, further studies are needed before these cancer fighting properties can be confirmed.
10) PREVENTING GUM DISEASE:- If you suffer from gum disease then you might want to start eating more astaxanthin rich foods. Early evidence suggests that this xanthophyll may be able to prevent gum disease and its unpleasant symptoms.
11) PREVENTING HEART DISEASE:- Heart disease is 1 of the main reasons behind early deaths in the UK each year. The good news is that both astaxanthin and lutein may be able to reduce your heart disease risk. Provisional studies indicate that astaxanthin can keep you safe from heart disease by reducing high blood pressure whilst lutein might be able to prevent atherosclerosis and ensure that there is a healthy supply of blood to the heart. However, additional evidence is needed before these protective properties can be confirmed.
12) PREVENTING MENTAL DISORDERS:- As you get older you become more susceptible to a number of mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (a mental disorder that inhibits memory, thought and speech) and Parkinson’s disease (a mental disorder that leads to problems with mobility and speech). Fortunately, early research indicates that astaxanthin may be able to prevent this age related mental decline. However, further studies are required before this can be confirmed.
13) PREVENTING THE COMMON COLD AND THE FLU:- If you normally contract the common cold or the flu around winter time you might want to try eating astaxanthin. Provisional studies suggest that this natural nutrient may be able to prevent these viral infections although additional research is required before this can be confirmed.
14) PROTECTING AGAINST KIDNEY DAMAGE:- Your kidneys are a vital organ that assist in the removal of waste materials form your body. The good news is that early research suggests that astaxanthin may be able to keep them safe from damage. However, further studies are needed before these kidney boosting properties can be confirmed.
15) PROTECTING AGAINST ULTRAVIOLET (UV) DAMAGE:- Ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible rays of energy that come from the sun. They are extremely dangerous and can cause skin cancer. Fortunately, provisional evidence indicates that astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and lutein can all keep your body’s cells safe from the harmful effects of UV rays. However, additional research is required before this can be confirmed.
16) REDUCING UNNECESSARY INFLAMMATION:- Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection, injury, irritation or stress. It leads to heat, pain, redness and swelling around the affected area. Most of the time, inflammation is a painful but necessary part of the healing process. However, sometimes inflammation is unnecessary and damages your body’s cells when there is no threat to deal with. The good news is that astaxanthin may be able to prevent unnecessary inflammation although further studies are needed before this can be confirmed.
17) SOOTHING THE STOMACH:- If you regularly suffer from an upset stomach then you might want to give astaxanthin a try. Provisional research indicates that this xanthophyll may be able to relieve indigestion. However, additional evidence is required before these stomach soothing properties can be confirmed.
18) SUPPORTING HEALTHY GROWTH:- Another of the important xanthophyll benefits is that they indirectly support healthy growth. When you eat cryptoxanthin it is converted into vitamin A which supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
19) SUPPORTING PREGNANT AND LACTATING WOMEN:- If you are pregnant or lactating then you might want to start eating more lutein. Early studies indicate that this natural nutrient may be able to boost the health of both pregnant and lactating women. However, additional research is required before this can be confirmed.
20) TREATING DIABETES:- Diabetes is an unpleasant disease where your blood glucose levels become dangerously high as a result of your body’s cells failing to respond to insulin (a hormone which allows your body’s cells to take glucose from blood) or your pancreas failing to produce enough insulin. If left untreated, diabetes can seriously damage your body’s cells and vital organs. Fortunately, provisional evidence suggests that astaxanthin may be able to treat diabetes. However, further studies are needed before this can be confirmed.
XANTHOPHYLL HEALTH BENEFITS SUMMARY
The xanthophylls are a group of very promising phytonutrients. For starters, they are all powerful antioxidants that can keep your body’s cells safe from dangerous free radicals. Additionally, cryptoxanthin can be used by your body to create vitamin A which helps you maintain healthy vision and much more. Finally, early evidence indicates that the xanthophylls boost your overall health and protect against a number of nasty disorders. Although more research is required before the benefits of these natural nutrients are confirmed, you should definitely start including them in your diet. Cayenne pepper, salmon and most green leafy vegetables all contain high levels of xanthophylls so get them on your plate and start eating them regularly.