Carotenoid Information

Carotenoids are a group of fat-soluble pigments found in plants. All organisms that use the sun to produce energy (plants, bacteria, etc.) rely on carotenoids. The antioxidant effects of carotenoids help protect these organisms while converting the sun's rays into energy through photosynthesis.

In our bodies, carotenoids serve two purposes. First, as with plants, carotenoids exert antioxidant activity in the human body. Second, some carotenoids are converted into helpful vitamin A. Of the hundreds of carotenoid varieties that exist, it is believed that 30 to 50 play a role in vitamin A activity at some level. Carotenoids that influence vitamin A activity are known as provitamin A carotenoids of which the most common are beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. Common carotenoids that do not influence vitamin A activity include lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin.

Supplementation

Whether people who already consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables (a natural source of carotenoids) would benefit further from supplementation with a mixture of carotenoids remains uncertain. However, studies indicate that smokers should not supplement with isolated synthetic beta-carotene.

For those who used carotenoid supplements, some professionals recommend up to 25,000 IU (15 mg) per day of natural beta-carotene and approximately 6 mg each of alpha-carotene, lutein, and lycopene.

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