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Canthaxanthin Scientific Study


In order to understand the functions of Canthaxanthin and beta carotene, an understanding of the group of molecules called the carotenoids is necessary. Carotenoids are biological pigments that are both the coloring of living organisms and the necessary molecules needed for important metabolic reactions. They are distributed ubiquitously in leaves, flowers, fruit and roots of plants. Carotenoids are also found in many animals, especially in marine invertebrates. They tend to accumulate in brightly colored feathers of tropical birds. All carotenoids that are found in animals are ultimately derived from plant or algae. Carotenoids are potent antioxidant molecules that protect plants from damage caused by singlet and triplet oxygen produced by ultraviolet rays and photosynthetic metabolism. They are free radical scavengers that prevent harmful uncontrolled oxidation chain reactions. Carotenoids also protect plants from direct ultraviolet damage by absorbing high-energy ultraviolet photons and dissipating the energy along their hydrocarbon chains. Mutant plants that contain no carotenoids soon die due to the ultraviolet induced damage to the chlorophyll. This beautiful array of orange, yellow and red leaves in the autumn is colored by the carotenoid pigments. The green chlorophyllis are destroyed by the cold and free radicals, thereby unmasking the various carotenoids the leaves also contain.

The carotenoids consist of two main groups:

  • The carotenes
  • The xanthophyllis

Beta carotene is the most common carotene. Canthaxanthin is a xanthophyllis, closely related to beta carotene.


Canthaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in many different plants and animals. it is the red coloring of many fruits, vegetables, and flowers, as well as some edible mushrooms. It gives the pink hue of the feathers of bright colored tropical birds such as flamingos and roseate spoonbills. A few species of pink shellfish and some ocean crustaceans such as the red lobster contain this xanthophyll, as does the punk flesh of salmon and the red spots on the skin of trout. Besides being a red pigment, Canthaxanthin functions as an ultraviolet photon absorber, a singlet and triplet oxygen quencher and a free radical deactivator (especially in salmon). The incredible endurance of pink salmon on their long migrations to spawning grounds may be possible due to the antioxidant qualities of the Canthaxanthin that saturates their bodies. They swim for thousands of miles in highly ionized water (ionized by waterfalls and rapids).

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