What Is Annatto? Makes use of, Advantages, and Aspect Results

Annatto is a sort of meals coloring constituted of the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana).

Although it is probably not well-known, an estimated 70% of pure meals colours are derived from it (1).

Along with its culinary makes use of, annatto has lengthy been utilized in many components of South and Central America for artwork, as a beauty, and to deal with numerous medical circumstances (1).

This text critiques the makes use of, advantages, and negative effects of annatto.

Seeds and plant parts of the achiote tree from which annatto food coloring is derivedShare on Pinterest

Annatto is an orange-red meals coloring or condiment constituted of the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), which grows in tropical areas in South and Central America (1).

It has a number of different names, together with achiote, achiotillo, bija, urucum, and atsuete.

It’s mostly used as a pure meals coloring, because it imparts a vibrant colour that ranges from yellow to deep orange-red, just like saffron and turmeric.

Its colour comes from compounds referred to as carotenoids, that are pigments which can be discovered within the seed’s outer layer and plenty of different fruit and veggies, resembling carrots and tomatoes.

Moreover, annatto is used as a condiment to reinforce the flavour of dishes as a result of its barely candy and peppery style. Its aroma is greatest described as nutty, peppery, and floral.

It is available in a number of types, together with powder, paste, liquid, and as an important oil.


Annatto is a sort of meals coloring agent and condiment that’s constituted of the seeds of the achiote tree. Its vibrant colour comes from compounds referred to as carotenoids.

This pure meals coloring has been related to numerous potential well being advantages.

Antioxidant properties

Annatto comprises quite a few plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties, together with carotenoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and tocotrienols (2, 3, 4, 5).

Antioxidants are compounds that may neutralize probably dangerous molecules often known as free radicals, which might harm your cells if their ranges rise too excessive.

Analysis has discovered that harm attributable to excessive free radical ranges is linked to continual circumstances, resembling cancers, mind problems, coronary heart illness, and diabetes (6).

Antimicrobial properties

Analysis means that this meals coloring could have antimicrobial properties.

In test-tube research, annatto extracts had been proven to inhibit the expansion of varied micro organism, together with Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (7, 8).

In one other test-tube examine, annatto killed numerous fungi, together with Aspergillus niger, Neurospora sitophila, and Rhizopus stolonifer. Furthermore, including the dye to bread inhibited the expansion of fungi, extending the bread’s shelf life (9).

Equally, one examine discovered that pork patties that had been handled with annatto powder had much less microbe progress than untreated patties after 14 days in storage (10).

This analysis signifies that this meals coloring could have a promising position in meals preservation.

Could have anticancer properties

Early analysis suggests annatto has cancer-fighting potential.

For instance, test-tube research have discovered that extracts of this meals coloring could suppress most cancers cell progress and induce cell dying in human prostate, pancreas, liver, and pores and skin most cancers cells, amongst different varieties of most cancers (11, 12, 13, 14).

The potential anticancer properties of annatto have been linked to compounds it comprises, together with the carotenoids bixin and norbixin, and tocotrienols, a sort of vitamin E (2, 11, 13).

Whereas these findings are promising, human research are wanted to research these results.

Could promote eye well being

Annatto is excessive in carotenoids, which can profit eye well being (15).

Specifically, it’s excessive within the carotenoids bixin and norbixin, that are discovered within the outer layer of the seed and assist give it its vibrant yellow-to-orange colour (16).

In an animal examine, supplementing with norbixin for three months diminished the buildup of the compound N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E), which has been linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (17).

AMD is the main reason for irreversible blindness amongst older adults (17).

Nonetheless, human research are wanted earlier than annatto might be really helpful for this goal.

Different potential advantages

Annatto could provide different advantages, together with:

  • Could assist coronary heart well being. Annatto is an effective supply of vitamin E compounds referred to as tocotrienols, which can defend in opposition to age-related coronary heart points (18).
  • Could scale back irritation. A number of test-tube research point out that annatto compounds could scale back quite a few markers of irritation (19, 20, 21).


Annatto has been linked to a number of potential well being advantages, resembling wholesome eyes, higher coronary heart well being, and diminished irritation. It might even have antioxidant, anticancer, and antimicrobial properties.

Annatto has been used for hundreds of years for numerous functions.

Historically, it was used for physique portray, as sunscreen, as an insect repellant, and for treating problems, resembling heartburn, diarrhea, ulcers, and pores and skin points (22).

At present, it’s primarily used as a pure meals coloring and for its taste profile.

For instance, this pure meals additive is current in numerous industrial meals, resembling cheeses, butter, margarine, custards, truffles, and baked merchandise (23).

In lots of areas of the world, annatto seeds are floor up right into a paste or powder and mixed with different spices or seeds in numerous dishes. As such, it’s an vital ingredient in cochinita pibil, a conventional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish.

In contrast with synthetic meals colorings, annatto affords antioxidants and has different advantages.

Plus, its seeds can be utilized to make important oils which can be utilized in aromatherapy and will have antimicrobial results.

Nonetheless, it’s vital to notice that important oils are supposed to be inhaled or utilized to the pores and skin. They shouldn’t be swallowed as this may be dangerous (22, 24).


Annatto has been historically used for numerous functions, together with in artwork, cooking, and medication. Nonetheless, its principal use at present is as a meals coloring and so as to add taste to dishes.

Usually, annatto seems to be protected for most individuals (25).

Although it’s unusual, some folks could expertise an allergic response to it, particularly if they’ve recognized allergy symptoms to crops within the Bixaceae household (25).

Signs embody itchiness, swelling, low blood strain, hives, and abdomen ache (26).

In some conditions, annatto could set off signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (27).

Pregnant or breastfeeding girls mustn’t devour it in quantities greater than these usually present in meals, as there aren’t sufficient research on its security in these populations.

For those who expertise any uncomfortable negative effects whereas consuming this meals coloring or merchandise that comprise it, cease utilizing them instantly and converse to your healthcare supplier.


Usually, annatto seems to be protected for most individuals, however there’s not sufficient data to make sure its security in sure populations.

Annatto is a pure meals additive that has been linked to varied advantages, together with diminished irritation, improved eye and coronary heart well being, and antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

But, human research on its advantages and negative effects are missing, and extra analysis is required earlier than it may be really helpful for well being causes.

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