What are carotenoids?

Carotenoids are pigments of vegetable lipid naturally distinguished by their coloration- red, orange and yellow – and their function as photoprotective agents which protect the body from excess light.

Carotenoids are a class of more than 600 naturally occurring pigments, 50 of which can be significantly consumed with diet and absorbed in the intestine. Among the most important are beta-carotene , alfacarotene, gammacarotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein.

Carotenoids which have vitamin activity are called pro-vitamin A carotenoids, meaning they can perform a nutritional function due to their strong antioxidant activity.


What is the purpose of carotenoids?

In addition to being precursors of vitamin A (retinol) which provide the body with antioxidant activity, carotenoids have a protective effect on several diseases due to their ability to neutralize free radicals- molecules that can damage the structure of cells if not kept under control. Due to this protective effect, carotenoids tend to make our body’s immune system stronger and block the progression of pre-cancerous diseases that could affect areas such as the mouth and neck.


Which foods are rich in carotenoids?

Carotenoids which have vitamin activity (pro-vitamin A carotenoids) are present in many fruits and vegetables, mostly of red and orange color such as carrots, pumpkins, melons, apricots, tomatoes, watermelons and peppers. 

They are also present in many green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and parsley.


What is the daily requirement of carotenoids intake?

The requirement of carotenoids with vitamin activity is 6 g daily.   


Carotenoids deficiency

Carotenoids deficiency can lead to an increased exposure to chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies have found a connection between carotenoids deficiency and various tumours of the epithelial tissues: lungs, gastrointestinal tract, cervix and skin.


Excessive intake of carotenoids

Excessive intake of carotenoids with vitamin activity does not cause toxic side effects.


Is it true that carotenoids uptake is better absorbed when consumed with some fat?

Yes, this is true. Preferably carotenoids absorbed through the form of olive oil or an avocado can help ensure lowering of bile in the intestine, which may cause loss of carotenoids if not controlled.