food of the week
who we are - what's new - getting started - community
The World's Healthiest Foods
eating healthy

Eating Healthy
WHFoods List A-Z
Important Q&A's
Essential Nutrients
Food Advisor
All About Organic Foods
Ask George Your Questions

Cooking Healthy
WHFoods Kitchen
Seasonal Eating
Over 100 Recipes
In Home Cooking Demo

Feeling Great
Feeling Great Menu
Healthy Way of Eating
How Foods Help You Stay Healthy
For the Entire Family
Eating Right for Your Disease
About Popular Diets
Meal Planning for Health Conditions

Who We Are
What's New
Getting Started
Contact Us
Send to a Friend
Rating Questionnaire
Free Weekly Bulletin
Send Us A Favorite Recipe


What can food rich in beta-cryptoxanthin do for you?

  • Protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals
  • Provide a source of vitamin A
  • Reduce your risk of lung cancer: A study published by an international team in the January 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention reported that beta-cryptoxanthin reduced lung cancer risk by more than 30% for those whose diets provided the highest amounts of this carotenoid, and concluded, “Although smoking is the strongest risk factor for lung cancer, greater intake of foods high in beta-cryptoxanthin, such as citrus fruit, may modestly lower the risk.” Beta-cryptoxanthin has previously (February 2003) been shown to provide a 41% reduction in the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. (February 26, 2004)

What events and lifestyle factors can indicate a need for more foods rich in beta cryptoxanthin foods?

  • Smoking and regular alcohol consumption
  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables

Food sources of beta cryptoxanthin include red bell peppers, papaya, cilantro, oranges, corn and watermelon.


What is beta cryptoxanthin?

Beta-cryptoxanthin, classified chemically as a xanthophyll, is one of the most abundant carotenoids in the North American diet. It is a “provitamin A”compound, one of approximately 50 carotenoids able to be converted in the body into retinol, an active form of vitamin A. Beta cryptoxanthin has approximately one-half of the vitamin A activity of beta-carotene.

How it Functions

What are the functions of beta cryptoxanthin?

Preventing Vitamin A Deficiency

Until late in the 20th Century, the functions of carotenoids, including beta-cryptoxanthin, were discussed only in terms of their potential vitamin A activity. It is one of approximately 50 carotenoids of the known 600 that are called "provitamin A" compounds because the body can convert them into retinol, an active form of vitamin A. As a result, foods that contain beta-cryptoxanthin can help prevent vitamin A deficiency. In addition to beta-cryptoxanthin, some of the other most commonly consumed provitamin A carotenoids include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.

Anti-cancer properties

In recent years, carotenoids including beta-cryptoxanthin have received a tremendous amount of attention for their antioxidant activity as well as their potential as anti-cancer and anti-aging compounds. Increased intake of this carotenoid has been found to be associated with reduced risk of esophageal and lung cancer. Lower levels of beta-cryptoxanthin have been found in the colonic tissues of patients who have colon polyps while in laboratory animals, intake of beta-cryptoxanthin was found to be protective against colon cancer. In exploring the mechanisms behind its cancer protective activity, researchers have suggested that in addition to its ability to quench free radicals, its benefits may be related to its potential to stimulate expression of RB gene, an anti-oncogene that functions to protect cells from becoming cancerous.

Enhancing Lung Function

Research suggests that beta-cryptoxanthin may promote the health of the respiratory tract. Serum concentrations of this carotenoid have been found to be associated with improved lung function as measured by functional tests. Studies have suggested that decreased lung cancer risk is associated with higher dietary intake and higher serum levels of beta-cryptoxanthin while persons who smoke as well as those who inhale second hand smoke have been found to have lower levels of this carotenoid.

Deficiency Symptoms

What are deficiency symptoms for beta-cryptoxanthin?

A low dietary intake of carotenoids such as beta-cryptoxanthin is not known to directly cause any diseases or health conditions, at least in the short term. However, if your intake of vitamin A is also low, a dietary deficiency of beta-cryptoxanthin and/or other provitamin A carotenoids can cause the symptoms associated with vitamin A deficiency.

In addition, long-term inadequate intake of carotenoids is associated with chronic disease, including heart disease and various cancers. One important mechanism for this carotenoid-disease relationship appears to be free radicals. Research indicates that diets low in carotenoids can increase the body’s susceptibility to damage from free radicals. As a result, over the long term, carotenoid-deficient diets may increase tissue damage from free radical activity, and increase risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancers.

Toxicity Symptoms

What are toxicity symptoms for beta-cryptoxanthin?

High intake of carotenoid-containing foods or supplements is not associated with any toxic side effects. As a result, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences did not establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for carotenoids when it reviewed these compounds in 2000.

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing

How do cooking, storage, or processing affect beta-cryptoxanthin?

There is minimal research specifically focusing upon the effects of cooking, storage or processing upon beta-crytoxanthin.

Factors that Affect Function

What factors might contribute to a deficiency of beta-cryptoxanthin?

Carotenoids, such as beta-cryptoxanthin, are fat-soluble substances, and as such require the presence of dietary fat for proper absorption through the digestive tract. Consequently, your beta-cryptoxanthin status may be impaired by a diet that is extremely low in fat or if you have a medical condition that causes a reduction in the ability to absorb dietary fat such as pancreatic enzyme deficiency, Crohn’s disease, celiac sprue, cystic fibrosis, surgical removal of part or all of the stomach, gall bladder disease, and liver disease.

Due to low consumption of fruits and vegetables, many adolescents and young adults do not take in enough carotenoids. In addition, if you smoke cigarettes and/or drink alcohol, you may have lower than normal blood levels of beta-cryptoxanthin. Statistically speaking, smokers and drinkers eat fewer foods that contain carotenoids such as beta-cryptoxanthin. Also, researchers suspect that cigarette smoke destroys carotenoids. However, if you do smoke or drink, use carotenoid supplements with caution.

Drug-Nutrient Interactions

What medications affect carotenoids such as beta-crytoxanthin?

The cholesterol-lowering medications referred to as bile acid sequestrants (Cholestyramine, Colestipol, and Colestid) lower blood levels of carotenoids. In addition, margarines enriched with plant sterols such as Benecol and Take Control, may decrease the absorption of carotenoids. Olestra, a fat substitute added to snack foods, may also decrease the absorption of carotenoids.

Nutrient Interactions

How do other nutrients interact with beta-cryptoxanthin?

Beta-carotene supplements increase blood levels of beta-cryptoxanthin while supplementing your diet with pectin may decrease the absorption of carotenoids.

Health Conditions

What health conditions require special emphasis on beta-cryptoxanthin and carotenoids?

Carotenoids may play a role in the prevention of the following health conditions:

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Angina pectoris
  • Asthma
  • Cataracts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Chlamydial infection
  • Heart disease
  • Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx)
  • Lung cancer
  • Male and female infertility
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Photosensitivity
  • Pneumonia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Skin cancer
  • Vaginal candidiasis

Form in Dietary Supplements

What forms of beta-cryptoxanthin are found in dietary supplements?

In dietary supplements, beta-cryptoxanthin is often found in supplements that feature an array of naturally occurring carotenoids.

It is important to note, however, that, due to the inconsistent results from research studies aimed at evaluating the health benefits of beta-carotene supplements (which may also contain beta-cryptoxanthin), the National Academy of Sciences cautions against taking high dose carotenoid supplements, except as a method for preventing vitamin A deficiency.

Food Sources

Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the foods which are either excellent, very good or good sources of this nutrient. Next to each food name you will find the following information: the serving size of the food; the number of calories in one serving; DV% (percent daily value) of the nutrient contained in one serving; the nutrient density rating; and the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Not all of our Daily Value standards are obtained from the FDA. In most instances, we used FDA Daily Values when available because they are widely recognized and apply to both men and women. However, when unavailable, we've used other science-based research to establish nutritional standards. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Nutrient Rating System.

Food Source Analysis not Available for this Nutrient

Public Health Recommendations

What are current public health recommendations for beta-cryptoxanthin and carotenoids?

To date, no recommended dietary intake levels have been established for beta-cryptoxanthin and carotenoids. In an effort to set such recommendations, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the existing scientific research on carotenoids in 2000.

Despite the large body of population-based research that links high consumption of foods containing beta-carotene and other carotenoids with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, the Institute of Medicine concluded that this evidence was not strong enough to support a required carotenoid intake level because it is not yet known if the health benefits associated with carotenoid-containing foods are due to the carotenoids or to some other substance in the food.

However, the National Academy of Sciences supports the recommendations of various health agencies, which encourage individuals to consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetable every day.


  • Agarwal S, Rao AV. Carotenoids and chronic diseases. Drug Metabol Drug Interact 2000;17(1-4):189-210.
  • Alberg AJ, Chen JC, Zhao H, Hoffman SC, Comstock GW, Helzlsouer KJ. Household exposure to passive cigarette smoking and serum micronutrient concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Dec;72(6):1576-82.
  • Burri BJ. Carotenoids and gene expression. Nutrition 2000 Jul-2000 Aug 31;16(7-8):577-8.
  • Cerhan JR, Saag KG, Merlino LA et al. Antioxidant micronutrients and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in a cohort of older women. Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Feb 15; 157(4):345-54.
  • De Stefani E, Brennan P, Boffetta P, Ronco AL, Mendilaharsu M, Deneo-Pellegrini H. Vegetables, fruits, related dietary antioxidants, and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus: a case-control study in Uruguay. Nutr Cancer 2000;38(1):23-9.
  • Delgado-Vargas F, Jimenez AR, Paredes-Lopez O. Natural pigments: carotenoids, anthocyanins, and betalains-- characteristics, biosynthesis, processing, and stability. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2000 May;40(3):173-289.
  • Groff JL, Gropper SS, Hunt SM. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. West Publishing Company, New York, 1995.
  • Handelman GJ. The evolving role of carotenoids in human biochemistry. Nutrition 2001 Oct;17(10):818-22.
  • Krinsky NI. Carotenoids as antioxidants. Nutrition 2001 Oct;17(10):815-7.
  • Lininger SW, et al. A-Z guide to drug-herb-vitamin interactions. Prima Health, Rocklin, CA, 2000.
  • Mannisto S, Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Albanes D, Anderson K, van den Brandt PA, Cerhan JR, Colditz G, Feskanich D, Freudenheim JL, Giovannucci E, Goldbohm RA, Graham S, Miller AB, Rohan TE, Virta. Dietary carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in a pooled analysis of seven cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. .
  • Nair S, Norkus EP, Hertan H, Pitchumoni CS. Serum and colon mucosa micronutrient antioxidants: differences between adenomatous polyp patients and controls. Am J Gastroenterol 2001 Dec;96(12):3400-5.
  • Narisawa T, Fukaura Y, Oshima S, Inakuma T, Yano M, Nishino H. Chemoprevention by the oxygenated carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin of N-methylnitrosourea-induced colon carcinogenesis in F344 rats. Jpn J Cancer Res 1999 Oct;90(10):1061-5.
  • Nishino H, Tokuda H, Murakoshi M, Satomi Y, Masuda M, Onozuka M, Yamaguchi S, Takayasu J, Tsuruta J, Okuda M, Khachik F, Narisawa T, Takasuka N, Yano M. Cancer prevention by natural carotenoids. Biofactors 2000;13(1-4):89-94.
  • Pizzorno J, Murray M. The Textbook of Natural Medicine. The Textbook of Natural Medicine.
  • Schunemann HJ, Grant BJ, Freudenheim JL, Muti P, Browne RW, Drake JA, Klocke RA, Trevisan M. The relation of serum levels of antioxidant vitamins C and E, retinol and carotenoids with pulmonary function in the general population. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001 Apr;163(5):1246-55.
  • Young AJ, Lowe GM. Antioxidant and prooxidant properties of carotenoids. Arch Biochem Biophys 2001 Jan 1;385(1):20-7.
  • Yuan JM, Ross RK, Chu XD, Gao YT, Yu MC. Prediagnostic levels of serum beta-cryptoxanthin and retinol predict smoking-related lung cancer risk in Shanghai, China. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2001 Jul;10(7):767-73.

Send us your favorite recipes using the World's Healthiest Foods, so we can share them with others!

Search this site:

Privacy Policy and Visitor Agreement

For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.

home | who we are | site map | what's new | privacy policy and visitor agreement
2002-2005 The George Mateljan Foundation