Published online Dec 9, 2014. doi: 10.5497/wjp.v3.i4.140
Revised: October 2, 2014
Accepted: October 31, 2014
Published online: December 9, 2014
Obesity-associated cancers, including colon cancer and breast cancer, are increasing in Asian countries with Westernized lifestyles as exemplified by reduced physical activity and increased fat/sugar consumption. An excessive accumulation of visceral adipose tissue causes insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and adipocytokine imbalance, and these factors are suggested to be involved in cancer promotion. To prevent obesity-associated cancers, researcher attention is increasing on the so-called “functional foods”. In addition, new approaches to cancer control are in high demand, and using “functional foods” as supplemental or adjuvant agents in chemotherapy is thought to be a promising approach. One of these functional ingredients is xanthophylls, which are natural fat-soluble pigments found in fruits, vegetables, algae and other plants. Xanthophylls belong to the carotenoid class and have structures containing oxygen. Some studies have revealed that xanthophylls improve the inflammation status, serum triglyceride levels, blood pressure levels and liver function test values. Furthermore, recent studies show that xanthophylls possess high anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity and anti-oxidant properties. In this review, we highlight the recent findings for five xanthophylls, namely astaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, fucoxanthin, neoxanthin and zeaxanthin/lutein, and their relevance to cancer prevention.
Core tip: Xanthophylls belong to the class of carotenoids, and are natural fat-soluble pigments found in fruits, vegetables, algae and so on. It has been shown that the versatile functions of xanthophylls have great potential for the prevention of metabolic syndrome and cancers. Xanthophylls have proved safety, and several xanthophylls provide other health benefits, including improvement of inflammation, dyslipidemia, hypertension and liver function. These findings indicate that xanthophylls could be useful to prevent obesity-associated cancer.