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Supercharge your health with carotenoids

In a recent study published within the journal Antioxidants, researchers review existing research on the advantages of carotenoids to know the potential use of carotenoids as nutraceuticals and functional health foods.



Study: Overview of the Potential Helpful Effects of Carotenoids on Consumer Health and WellBeing. Image Credit: LilieGraphie / Shutterstock.com

Background

Plants contain biologically lively compounds called phytochemicals or phytonutrients with potential health advantages and uses in medicine, food, and cosmetics. As a result of their ability to diminish oxidative stress, plants have also been used to treat various diseases.

Carotenoids are a bunch of phytonutrients with possible cardiovascular and anti-cancer advantages. These brightly-colored compounds are present in photosynthesizing organisms resembling plants, cyanobacteria, and algae and are related to chlorophyll to soak up specific wavelengths of sunshine. Moreover, carotenoids protect plant cells from light damage and superoxide radicals and reduce the reactivity of oxygen species.

Carotenoids are present in bright-colored vegetables, fruits, egg yolks, butter, cheese, and seafood. Aside from the choice and cultivation of staple foods which are known carotenoid sources, there may be also a growing interest in exploring underused wild vegetables and fruits to find recent sources of carotenoids.

Carotenoids and their sources

There are greater than 600 naturally occurring carotenoids, synthesized mainly by plants, fungi, and bacteria. All contain a conjugated double-bond system that enables them to soak up light within the 400-550 nanometer (nm) wavelength. Based on composition, these compounds are classified as carotenes, which have only carbon and hydrogen atoms, in addition to xanthophylls, which also contain other oxygenated functional groups.

Carotenes, of which β-carotene is essentially the most abundant, are present in mangos, apricots, grapes, and carrots. Lycopene is an acyclic carotene generally present in vegetables and fruits with red flesh, resembling tomatoes and watermelons. Lutein is essentially the most abundant xanthophyll, while smaller amounts of other xanthophylls, like zeaxanthin, will also be present in green vegetables and cereals.

Carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, green vegetables, mangoes, peaches, apricots, papaya, and citrus fruits are major sources of carotenoids. Beta-carotene can also be present in green leafy vegetables resembling spinach, kale, and lettuce.

Lycopene is principally present in vegatables and fruits which are red-fleshed, resembling tomato, watermelon, pink guava, and papaya, in addition to green vegetables, resembling asparagus and parsley. Green leafy vegetables, resembling kale, spinach, purslane, watercress, parsley, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, and broccoli, are a big source of lutein, while red and orange peppers are a very good source of zeaxanthin.

Besides vegetables and fruits, carotenoids are also present in cereals, especially maize, dairy products, fish, and mammals that accumulate yellow fat, resembling cattle and birds. As carotenoids are lipid-soluble, the bio-accessibility of carotenoids also is determined by the lipid content of the weight loss plan. Moreover, the presence of other phytochemicals resembling fatty acids, phytosterols, tocopherols, and polyphenols also impact the absorption of carotenoids.

Role in human health

Lycopene has the best free radical activity among the many 600 naturally occurring carotenoids and has exhibited the flexibility to guard deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from oxidative stress and forestall mutations that might cause chronic diseases. Various studies on animal models, in addition to ex vivo and in vitro studies using cultured cells, have reported that carotenoids have anti-inflammatory properties and exhibit helpful effects in lipidic and glycemic impairments, in addition to the apoptosis and proliferation of tumor cells.

Lycopene has been used as a dietary complement within the treatment of assorted cardiovascular diseases and appears to cut back cholesterol oxidation, enhance antioxidant properties, and reduce oxidative stress. Lycopene has also shown protective properties during arterial transplants by modulating the production of proteins involved in arteriosclerosis.

Carotenoids, resembling β-carotene, have been related to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas lycopene has been seen to diminish fasting blood glucose levels. Although data on the anti-cancer properties of carotenoids are insufficient, carotenoid consumption is linked to a reduced risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Previous studies have also reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of lycopene have been related to a lower risk of assorted cancers resembling lung, breast, prostate, ovarian, and stomach cancers.

The protective properties of carotenoids against ultraviolet radiation have also been examined for the treatment of assorted eye and skin diseases, and carotenoids have been utilized in a big selection of cosmeceuticals.

Conclusions

This comprehensive review discussed carotenoids’ antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties, the various food sources of carotenoids, and the use of assorted carotenoids, especially lycopene, as dietary supplements in treating various diseases. The findings highlight the scope of using carotenoids as nutraceuticals and functional food in treating various diseases and cosmetic treatments.

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Journal reference:

  • Crupi, P., Faienza, M. F., Naeem, M. Y., et al. (2023). Overview of the Potential Helpful Effects of Carotenoids on Consumer Health and WellBeing. Antioxidants 12(5). doi:10.3390/antiox12051069

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