Carotenoids for Better Health
October 10, 2014
Just living in our modern world continuously exposes our bodies to a variety of destructive oxidants, often referred to as free radicals. These free radicals can accelerate the aging process and damage cell structure. Everything from pollution and cigarette smoke to sun exposure, or even just metabolizing the food we eat, exposes our bodies to these damaging agents. Our bodies do have a number of defense mechanisms to offset damage by these oxidants. However, when our exposure to these oxidants chronically exceeds our antioxidant defenses, a state of oxidative stress develops, leading to cellular damage.
One thing we can do to protect against this oxidative stress is to consume optimal amounts of antioxidants from foods and supplements.
The Color of Carotenoids
Some of the most abundant antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables are carotenoids with more than 600 of these pigments identified in nature so far. Carotenoids are responsible for many of the bright red and orange colors found in fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, the more colorful fruits and vegetables you eat, the more carotenoids you consume and the higher your antioxidant status.
One unique carotenoid that does not come from fruits and vegetables is called astaxanthin. It is the carotenoid that is responsible for the pink color in salmon, shrimp and lobster. The main sources of astaxanthin that you will find in dietary supplements are algae and krill oil. It is also the reason flamingoes are pink, because they eat a diet with high levels of astaxanthin.
What you may be surprised to learn is that carotenoids are fat-soluble and require fat for absorption even though they come from fruits and vegetables, which typically don’t contain any fat. That is why it is a great idea to add healthy sources of fat to your salads and other dishes that contain carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables.
Carotenoids are unique in their antioxidant function. Due to their elongated structure, carotenoids have the ability to absorb damaging oxidants like singlet oxygen – a free radical that is generated by ultraviolet sun exposure. This is one of the reasons nutrition scientists believe carotenoids accumulate in larger concentrations in tissues exposed to the sun such as the skin and the eye.
In addition to providing antioxidant protection, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-cryptoxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin all have the unique distinction of being pro-vitamin A molecules. That means that these four carotenoids can be converted to vitamin A in the body and, therefore, contribute to immune function, eye health and other vitamin-A-related functions.
Now you know a little bit more about the why behind all of the hype around eating a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables – the red and yellow colors come from protective antioxidants – the carotenoids. ■
NU SKIN TIP:
Things like olive oil, nuts and/or avocado can all help increase the absorption of carotenoids from the fruits and vegetables you eat. Some foods, like tomato sauce made with olive oil, provide both the carotenoids from the lycopene in the tomatoes and the fat source required to absorb them.
Nu Skin Recommends
The Nu Skin BioPhotonic Scanner allows users to non-invasively measure carotenoids in the skin. Not surprisingly, the carotenoids detected in the skin by the BioPhotonic Scanner are the same carotenoids found in the bloodstream. This measurement technique is fast, painless, quantitative, and reliable, and it turns out that skin carotenoid levels better reflect long-term carotenoid status. This is because they are less influenced by day-to-day variations in dietary carotenoid intake.
Carotenoid levels in the skin measured by the BioPhotonic Scanner have also been demonstrated to be directly related to self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption, overall carotenoid status and habitual dietary intake. It turns out that the BioPhotonic Scanner is the ultimate fruit and vegetable lie detector test. To locate a BioPhotonic Scanner operator near you, click here:
Posted by: Angela Mastaloudis, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Global Research and Development, Pharmanex