Astaxanthin has become very popular in helping to reduce the effects of aging and reducing the risk of disease. It is well-known for its benefits in regard to eyesight and the prevention of macular degeneration and has become so popular that you can even grab a bottle at your local Costco and most grocery stores. But have you ever heard of the Astaxanthin’s cancer-killing cousins?
Unlike an episode of the Soprano’s or a Godfather sequel these killer cousins actually have the power to save lives by inducing apoptosis – that is, when cancer cells spontaneously die (aka: cancer cell suicide) – and by disrupting the typical growth pattern of cancer cells which lead to malignant tumors and metastasis.
Compounds That Prevent And Reverse Cancer
A 2005 study revealed that these compounds have the ability to halt and reverse the development of prostate and colon cancer by interrupting the natural evolution of cancerous cells. Additional research indicates that these carotenoids – specific types of phytonutrients found only in plants, algae and bacteria – have the ability to suppress and possibly reverse cancer of the mammary glands (breast cancer), skin (melanoma) and blood (leukemia). And a 2012 study showed further evidence that at least one of these compounds has the ability to impede and reverse cases of lymphoma and the Epstein-Barr virus.
Neoxanthin, fucoxanthin and violaxanthin are the incredible cancer-killing antioxidants to which I’m referring, and they can be found in some tasty, easy-to find foods and supplements. Some of which may even be in your refrigerator at this very moment. And if they aren’t, they should be ; )
Although all carotenoids are important for disease prevention, these specific carotenoids, among a few others, fall under the class of xanthophylls, which means that they contain oxygen and are especially adept at targeting cancer.
One study noted that “Neoxanthin and fucoxanthin at >10 μmol/L each showed a remarkable reduction in the viability of prostate cancer cells.” Scientists were struck by the extraordinary results of their research in which they found that after treating human prostate cancer cells with these compounds for a mere 48 hours, more than 30% of the cancerous cells had died. Another study observed that after only 24 hours “the percentage of apoptotic cells markedly increased” in cancer cells treated with fucoxanthin.
Another key to the effectiveness of fucoxanthin, in particular, in preventing and treating diseases such as cancer lies in its anti-inflammatory properties. Since we now know that systemic inflammation is at the root of all disease and illness, it is vital that we consume foods which reduce inflammation, such as plants, rather than foods which promote inflammation, such as animal products and refined, sugars, oils and carbohydrates.
Best of all, and unlike traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, neoxanthin, fucoxanthin, and violaxanthin target only cancer cells, while leaving health-promoting and disease-fighting cells intact and unharmed. This, of course, provides additional health benefits and an additional layer of protection against all disease, illness and infection. It is important to note, however, that fucoxanthin increased cholesterol levels in several rodent studies, and the effects on human cholesterol remain untested and unknown. Therefore, it's important for you to work with your physician to monitor your cholesterol levels when supplementing your diet with fucoxanthin, at least until further research is conducted.
Foods That Contain Neoxanthin, Violaxanthin and Fucoxanthin
So how can you add more of these awesome cancer-killing compounds to your diet? Well, neoxanthin and violaxanthin are much easier to find in foods and supplements that you’re most likely already familiar with, while fucoxanthin is primarily found in species of algae such as brown seaweed and supplements. Check out the lists below, to find the most common sources of these cancer-fighting superheroes:
1) Kotake-Nara, Eiichi, Masayo Kushiro*, Hong Zhang*, Tatsuya Sugawara*, and And Kazuo Miyashita. "Eiichi Kotake-Nara." The Journal of Nutrition. December 01, 2001. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/12/3303.long.
2) Kumar, Sangeetha, Masashi Hosokawa, and Kazuo Miyashita."Fucoxanthin: A Marine Carotenoid Exerting Anti-Cancer Effects by Affecting Multiple Mechanisms." Marine Drugs 11, no. 12 (December 16, 2013): 5130-147. doi:10.3390/md11125130.
3) Pasquet, Virginie, Perrine Morisset, Said Ihammouine, Amandine Chepied, Lucie Aumailley, Jean-Baptiste Berard, Benoit Serive, Raymond Kaas, Isabelle Lanneluc, Valerie Thiery, Mathieu Lafferriere, Jean-Marie Piot, Thierry Patrice, Jean-Paul Cadoret, and Laurent Picot. "Antiproliferative Activity of Violaxanthin Isolated from Bioguided Fractionation of Dunaliella tertiolecta Extracts." Marine Drugs 9, no. 12 (May 11, 2011): 819-31. doi:10.3390/md9050819.
4) Ishikawa, Chie, Senji Tafuku, Takashi Kadekaru, Shigeki Sawada, Mariko Tomita, Taeko Okudaira, Tetsuro Nakazato, Takayoshi Toda, Jun-Nosuke Uchihara, Naoya Taira, Kazuiku Ohshiro, Takeshi Yasumoto, Takao Ohta, and Naoki Mori. "Antiadult T-cell leukemia effects of brown algae fucoxanthin and its deacetylated product, fucoxanthinol." International Journal of Cancer 123, no. 11 (September 01, 2008): 2702-712. doi:10.1002/ijc.23860.
5) Mori, Naoki. "Anti-neoplastic effects of fucoxanthin and its deacetylated product, fucoxanthinol, on Burkitt's and Hodgkin's lymphoma cells." Oncology Reports, August 03, 2012. doi:10.3892/or.2012.1947.
6) Soontornchaiboon, Waesarat, Seong Soo Joo, and Sang Moo Kim. "Anti-inflammatory Effects of Violaxanthin Isolated from Microalga Chlorella ellipsoidea in RAW 264.7 Macrophages." Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 35, no. 7 (2012): 1137-144. doi:10.1248/bpb.b12-00187.
7) Kotake-Nara, Eiichi, Akira Asai, and Akihiko Nagao. "Neoxanthin and fucoxanthin induce apoptosis in PC-3 human prostate cancer cells." Cancer Letters 220, no. 1 (March 18, 2005): 75-84. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2004.07.048.
8) Peng, Juan, Jian-Ping Yuan, Chou-Fei Wu, and Jiang-Hai Wang. "Fucoxanthin, a Marine Carotenoid Present in Brown Seaweeds and Diatoms: Metabolism and Bioactivities Relevant to Human Health." Marine Drugs 9, no. 12 (October 10, 2011): 1806-828. doi:10.3390/md9101806.