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carotenes, are a large group of fat-soluble pigments that give plants
their vivid yellow, orange and red colors. While over 700 carotenoids
have been discovered, only 50-60 are found in foods. Of these, about 20
many roles in the body such as:
Besides acting as
pro-vitamin A, carotenoids are antioxidants. Antioxidants are the
body’s first line of defense against free radicals.* Free radicals are
highly reactive, unstable molecules created by smoking, pollution,
sunlight, radiation, injury, some medications and even during normal
metabolic processes. Left unchecked, free radicals can damage the
body’s cells, and even DNA.* Fortunately, carotenoids are potent
antioxidants that protect the body’s cells, DNA and other substances
from free radical damage.*3,4,5,6
A mixture of
carotenoids may provide more powerful antioxidant protection than single
carotenes alone, research indicates. According to an animal study, a mix
of carotenoids is more effective than isolated carotenes in preventing
free radical damage.*12
A Powerful Family
is the most familiar and well-studied carotene. Beta carotene’s
antioxidant abilities can be very useful to the body, especially since
one molecule of beta carotene can neutralize up to 1,000 molecules of
free radical oxygen.*13
Beta carotene has
been shown to strengthen immunity in many ways, such as by protecting
the immune system from free radical damage, as well as boosting the
potential of many of the immune system’s cells.*7,8,9,10
that as blood levels of beta carotene drop, heart health worsens.*14
Researchers believe that beta carotene promotes cardiovascular health by
protecting the lipoproteins (cholesterol carrying substances in the
blood) from free radical damage.*15
American diet provides only 1,400 IU of beta carotene daily.16
Furthermore, some research suggests that the beta carotene in foods is
less available to the body. In fact, this research shows that beta
carotene from supplements is better absorbed than the beta carotene in
an equivalent amount of food, such as carrots or spinach.*17
another strong antioxidant, may even be a more effective antioxidant
than beta carotene.*18 Women generally have higher plasma
levels of alpha and beta carotene than men.*18 Alpha
carotene, along with beta carotene and lutein, has been found to protect
the lungs from free radical damage.*11
Lutein and zeaxanthin are not converted to vitamin A, but do have very effective antioxidant capabilities.2 These two carotenoids are present in high concentrations in the eye, 20 the retina in particular, where they are thought to protect the macula (the central part of the retina) from UV and blue light damage.*11,22
A now famous Harvard study examined the relationship between lutein, zeaxanthin and the macula. People with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin-rich foods (such as spinach, kale and other vegetables and fruits23) showed a 43% lower incidence of damaged retinas and maculas.*20 Damaged retinas and maculas are the leading couse of blindness in the United States.
A second study, also from Harvard, found that spinach, but not carrots, provided significant protection for the lens of the eye.25 This suggests that lutein may also protect the lens from oxidative damage.* Other preliminary studies suggest that lutein may protect many parts of the body.*
Lycopene is a red carotenoid found primarily in tomatoes. It cannot be converted to vitamin A but is abundant in the body. In fact, there is more lycopene in our blood than beta carotene.*1,2 Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant, perhaps even more potent than beta carotene.*1 Plenty of lycopene is present in the skin, where it sacrifices itself to protect the skin from UV exposure.*26
In men, lycopene is found in high concentrations in the prostate gland.27 In another recent study from Harvard, involving almost 50,000 men, those consuming the most lycopene-rich foods, such as tomatoes and tomato products, were more likely to have healthy, normal prostates.28 In general, levels of lycopene in the blood decline with age. So, it may be wise to supplement lycopene in order to ensure adequate levels.
Phytoene and phytofluene are two of the latest carotenoids to be found in human blood. They are found in orange and red fruits and vegetables.
Sources of Carotenoids
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of carotenoids. In general, the more intense the color, the more carotenoids are present. For example, a cantaloupe generally has higher carotene levels than a honeydew melon; broccoli more than iceberg lettuce; and peaches more than pears. Since the bright green color of chlorophyll hides the yellow, orange or red of the carotenoids, other vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and kale, also contain ample amounts of carotenoids. A diet that includes two to four servings of fruits and three to five servings of vegetables each day should provide enough carotenoids and other essential nutrients.
The US Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) does not set a recommended daily intake (RDI)
for beta carotene, since it is not considered an essential nutrient.
Rather, the FDA considers beta carotene merely a precursor of vitamin A
(the RDI for vitamin A is 5,000 IU). However, the US Department of
Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute recommend 5-6 mg of beta
carotene each day.
appear to be non-toxic, even at high doses. Carotenemia, a yellowish
discoloration of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, can occur
at higher intakes of carotenoids. However, this condition is harmless
and reverses when carotene intake is reduced. Beta carotene and other
pro-vitamin A carotenoids are converted to vitamin A as the body
requires it, so carotenoids do not lead to hypervitaminosis A (vitamin A
safe even for pregnant women and their babies.* They are not
carcinogenic, mutagenic, embryotoxic or teratogenic.*29 Long
term use (over 15 years) of large amounts (up to 180 mg/day) of beta
carotene have produced no evidence of toxicity.*29
is committed to offering the finest carotene supplements available.
Nature’s Life offers eight powerful carotenoids in seven formulas for
maximum antioxidant protection.*
is a bright yellow-orange pigment naturally extracted from Marigold
petals (Tagetes erecta). One concentrated Lutein softgel is
equivalent to the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin found in 11 cups of
fresh, chopped spinach.
Marine Source Mixed Carotenoids are derived from Dunaliella salina, a carotenoid-rich marine algae. Through photosynthesis, this remarkable algae converts solar energy into carotenoids. Ounce for ounce, D. salina provides 10,000 times more beta carotene than carrots.
and “trans” are scientific terms that refer to the specific
shape of a molecule. Some researchers suggest that the cis form
is the most potent antioxidant. While other beta carotenes may contain
little or no cis-beta carotene, Nature’s Life Marine Source
Mixed Carotenoids contains both cis- and trans-beta
carotene in a concentrated 50/50 mixture. It also provides other
health-enhancing carotenoids, such as alpha carotene, cryptoxanthin,
zeaxanthin and lutein.