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Against Heart Disease

Carotinoids: Not Just Another Pretty Face

Colorful carotenoids provide a powerful defense in our fight against chronic disease. Our wonderful world is made such that the very things that cause the bright colors in our fruits and vegetables also provide nutrition to our bodies. They delight the eyes while bringing health to our bodies. 

In reality these colorful critters are the defense system for the plants within which they reside. They fight diseases that would otherwise attack the plant. Yet when we ingest them they serve us wonderfully in defending us against chronic disease. Below is a discussion concerning some specific carotenoids and the diseases they help to prevent.

Three Top Carotinoid Choices

Three carotenoids...

  • Beta-carotene
  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin

... can be converted into vitamin A in the body, but only in amounts that are required by the body. This is important since vitamin A is oil soluble and it can prove toxic if consumed in high amounts. In the case of vitamin A more is not necessarily better. However, with these three carotenoids there is no risk for vitamin A toxicity. 

Of these three, beta-carotene is the best known. It is strongly suspected of reducing the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. Before you run out and overdose on beta-carotene you might want to consider this. Two studies have shown that...

Heavy smokers who take beta-carotene may have a higher incidence of lung cancer than smokers who don't supplement.

Two possible reasons for this have been suggested. The first is that beta-carotene may react negatively in the lungs when a carcinogen is present. The other possibility is that beta-carotene works better in conjunction with other antioxidants. Of course if I had to make a choice between beta-carotene and smoking I know which choice I would make.

Lycopene is a fat-soluble pigment responsible for the red color in certain fruits and vegetables. This carotenoid protects the plant from damage by light and oxygen. This is precisely the kind of protection our bodies need. It is believed that Lycopene plays a role in protecting us from prostate cancer and heart disease.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, like the other carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments. These, however, are responsible for the yellow or green color of certain fruits and vegetables. Their pigment also protects the plant from damage by oxygen and light.

These carotenoids are found in the lens and macula of the eye and thought to be protective against age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and age-related cataracts.

Obviously, if carotenoids are responsible for the pigments in certain fruits and vegetables then it would make sense that to get enough of them one should eat plenty fruits and vegetables. When supplementing chose a vitamin source taken from whole foods to get the complete nutrition intended in nature. 

Return from Carotinoids to the Antioxidants page. 

Return from Carotinoids to Dietary Supplements

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