Look in your local drug store or supermarket, and you may notice something among the vitamins on the shelves. They are often including as a special featured ingredient some kind of carotenoid such as Lutein, Lycopene, or Zeaxanthin. This is for good reason. These pigments provide an array of health benefits including providing antioxidants to fight free radicals and support for men’s health. Additionally, specifically Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been linked to providing great nutritional support for your eyes.
Our friends at the American Botanical Council published an article reviewing several of these carotenoids. Here are a few excerpts from that article:
Like other natural pigments, carotenoids create color (in fish such as salmon and shrimp, many fruits and vegetables, and even in flamingoes’ pink feathers), offering photoprotection and, often, protective coloration. In plants, light hitting carotenoids initiates photosynthesis, in which chlorophyll is the best-known pigment player. Additionally, carotenoids are antioxidants, ‘quenching’ (absorbing) the energy of singlet (‘free radical’) oxygen produced during photosynthesis, and releasing this excess energy as heat.
In animals and humans, carotenoids also act as antioxidants, quenching the damaging excess energy of free radicals generated by life processes. Formerly best-known as precursors of vitamin A, not all carotenoids (there are over 700, of which 50 may be metabolized by humans) have this activity. Most-studied carotenoids include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, with a sidebar mentioning alpha-carotene, astaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. Vitamin A is important for immune function and healthy cell development. Health conditions most studied for carotenoid impact are cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and eye health. Granato summarizes current research findings for each of these conditions, briefly touching on skin health, Alzheimer’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis in a sidebar.
Two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, occur in their greatest concentrations in the eye, with lutein found throughout the retina and zeaxanthin concentrated in the macula. Supplementation with these xanthophylls (a class of carotenoid) increases macular pigment density, protecting against short-wave light and reducing oxidative damage to eye tissues. Macular pigment density is inversely associated with incidence of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Products containing lutein have increased in recent years, as consumer awareness of this benefit has risen. While most commercial lutein extracts are derived from marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis), it is also found abundantly in leafy green vegetables and in corn (Zea mays), along with zeaxanthin. Many supplements use a purified, concentrated product, FloraGlo® Lutein, on which Kemin Foods (Des Moines, IA) holds a number of U.S. patents. FloraGlo is the only lutein ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) for certain food and beverage applications, and appears in several foods and beverages (see HC 032325.216). Other lutein supplements contain lutein esters, in which the carotenoid is still bound with plant fats, promoted as ‘more natural’ and perhaps more bioavailable by manufacturers such as Buckton Scott Nutrition (Fairfield, NJ), makers of OptiCare® lutein esters, and Cognis Nutrition & Health (La Gange, IL), who produce Xangold® lutein esters. According to the February 2003 SPINS sales data, Kemin was ahead in this contest: four of five top carotenoid/antioxidant products were eye health formulas containing FloraGlo.
While supplementation with specific single-carotenoid products may benefit consumers with specific concerns, such as a high risk of ARMD, or single-source carotenoids such as tomato-based products may be useful for men with a family history of prostate cancer, natural mixed carotenoids from a variety of whole-foods sources may be the best way to use these natural pigments to support general health.
Even with a well-balanced diet, oftentimes its difficult to get sufficient carotenoids from food Botanic Choice proudly carries several supplements containing beneficial carotenoids. In fact, we feature Lycopene in several formulas including our Lycopene Liquid Extract and our men’s health formula Prostate 9 Complex. Moreover, Opti Gold is an amazing source of Lutein and Zeaxantin. In fact, it features FloraGlo Lutein and has more of each of these two nutrients than the leading brand in stores.
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