Canthaxanthin: Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, and Dosing

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Canthaxanthin: A Comprehensive Guide


Canthaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment that gives many marine organisms, such as salmon and shrimp, their distinctive red-orange coloration. It is a member of the xanthophyll family, which are known for their antioxidant properties. Canthaxanthin has gained attention as a dietary supplement due to its potential health benefits, particularly in the areas of eye health, skin protection, and immune function.

Uses of Canthaxanthin

Canthaxanthin is primarily used for the following purposes:

  • Enhancing eye health: Studies suggest that canthaxanthin may play a role in protecting the eyes from oxidative damage, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It has been shown to accumulate in the macula of the eye, where it acts as a filter for harmful blue light.
  • Protecting the skin from UV radiation: Canthaxanthin has antioxidant properties that may help protect the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It can absorb UV rays and prevent them from penetrating the skin, which can reduce the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging.
  • Boosting immune function: Canthaxanthin may support immune function by stimulating the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Improving athletic performance: Some studies suggest that canthaxanthin may enhance athletic performance by reducing muscle soreness and improving recovery time. It is thought to do this by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles.

Side Effects of Canthaxanthin

Canthaxanthin is generally safe when consumed in recommended amounts. However, excessive consumption can lead to the following side effects:

  • Orange or reddish skin discoloration: The most common side effect of canthaxanthin is a temporary orange or reddish discoloration of the skin. This is usually mild and disappears within a few weeks after discontinuing supplementation.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea or vomiting when taking canthaxanthin supplements.
  • Allergic reactions: Rare cases of allergic reactions to canthaxanthin have been reported. Symptoms may include hives, itching, and difficulty breathing.
  • Interaction with blood thinners: Canthaxanthin may interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding.

Precautions for Using Canthaxanthin

Before taking canthaxanthin supplements, it is important to consider the following precautions:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: The safety of canthaxanthin during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been established. It is recommended to avoid supplementation during these periods.
  • Liver disease: People with liver disease should use canthaxanthin supplements with caution as it may be difficult for the liver to metabolize.
  • Drug interactions: Canthaxanthin may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and cholesterol-lowering drugs. It is important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking before starting canthaxanthin supplementation.
  • Supplementation in excess: Consuming canthaxanthin above the recommended daily intake can increase the risk of side effects.

Dosing of Canthaxanthin

The recommended daily intake of canthaxanthin varies depending on the intended use:

  • For eye health: 12-18 mg per day
  • For skin protection: 10-20 mg per day
  • For immune support: 1-3 mg per day
  • For athletic performance: 20-40 mg per day

It is important to note that these are general recommendations, and the optimal dosage may vary depending on individual factors. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for your specific needs.

Sources of Canthaxanthin

Natural sources of canthaxanthin include:

  • Pink salmon
  • Red shrimp
  • Krill oil
  • Spirulina

Canthaxanthin is also available as a dietary supplement in capsule or tablet form.


Canthaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment with potential health benefits in areas such as eye health, skin protection, immune function, and athletic performance. While it is generally safe when consumed in recommended amounts, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and precautions before taking canthaxanthin supplements. If you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications, consult with a healthcare professional before starting supplementation.

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