Many of us feel anxious about the prospect of aging. Excessive exposure to sunlight, a diet deficient in vegetables, and certain drugs can accelerate this process, leading to the appearance of wrinkles, chronic diseases, and even tumours. But is there anything we can do to stop the passage of time?
Carotenes are antioxidant pigments abundantly found in foods of plant origin. Research has shown that these molecules can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals and improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin. However, carotene supplements have also faced their share of controversy. Are you ready to find out more about them?
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Carotene Supplements
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Carotene
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Carotenes are vegetable pigments with antioxidant properties. The most commonly known are β-carotene, α-carotene, and lycopene.
- Adequate intake can protect the skin against damage from ultraviolet radiation. Excessive use, on the other hand, can expose you to severe diseases.
- You will have to evaluate various factors before purchasing a carotene supplement. These include potential allergic reactions, vegan diets, as well as the type of carotene you need. You should also consider the presence of additional compounds, the way the product is presented, and its overall value for money.
Our Selection: The Best Carotene Supplements
A good carotene supplement can help keep your skin and bones healthy. A low-quality product, on the other hand, can damage your health. In the following section, you will discover our very own selection of the best carotene supplements currently available on the market. That way, you can choose a safe and high-quality supplement from the comfort of your own home.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Carotene
Carotenes are antioxidant molecules found naturally in fruits and vegetables that act as pigments to give an appealing colour to foods such as papayas or mangoes. These molecules will protect your skin from sun damage and can prevent the appearance of numerous chronic diseases.
What are carotenes exactly?
These pigments actually belong to a wider group of molecules known as carotenoids, which include around eight hundred different types of these compounds to date. Going back to carotenes more specifically, we identify three substances with important antioxidant properties:
|Type of carotene||Classification||Function|
|α-carotene||Provitamin A|| Cellular antioxidant.
It stimulates communication between cells.
It strengthens the immune system.
|β-carotene||Provitamin A|| Cellular antioxidant.
It stimulates communication between cells.
It strengthens the immune system.
|Lycopene||Non-provitamin A carotene|| Cellular antioxidant.
Control of cell reproduction.
Control of tissue damage.
Osteoblast stimulant (bone-forming cells).
We can therefore distinguish between carotenes precursors of vitamin A – α-carotene (alpha-carotene) and β-carotene (beta-carotene) – and carotenes without vitamin A activity such as lycopene. In both cases, the antioxidant activity of these molecules will oppose the action of free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules resulting from the body's regular metabolism, although their production may increase during times of stress or with certain habits (such as alcohol and tobacco consumption). These substances attack body tissues and cause a series of effects that are related to the appearance of the following issues:
- Direct damage to DNA: Our immune system uses this effect to destroy invading germs and pathogens. However, the harmful capacity of free radicals can lead to different damages on the DNA when turned against our own genetic material. These damages can generate cell death or dangerous mutations.
- Oxidation of fats: The oxidation of specific composites derived from fats can promote the appearance of premature atherosclerosis and affect the health of the cardiovascular system.
- Oxidation of structural composites: Free radicals affect the structure of proteins, weakening that of body organs. Aesthetically speaking, wrinkles will appear prematurely.
- Deactivation of components necessary for cell metabolism: Free radicals could interfere with cell signaling, preventing significant chemical reactions and increasing the likelihood of degenerative diseases and harmful mutations.
What foods contain carotenes?
You can increase your carotene levels by following a complete and varied diet that integrates the daily intake of at least five servings of fruits, vegetables, and other compounds rich in these molecules. We have listed carotene-rich foods in the table below, so you know what to add to your daily diet for a healthier you:
|α-carotene||Carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnips, and cabbage|
|β-carotene||Pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, mango, papaya, and blueberry|
|Lycopene||Papaya, tomato, asparagus, pink grapefruit, guava, watermelon, and peach|
The availability of these carotenes will also vary depending on how the food is prepared. Thus, the lycopene from raw tomato will have a much lower absorption rate (10%) than the same molecule in cooked tomato (50%). Olive oil dressings will also increase the availability of carotenes, as these molecules are soluble in fat.
Should I use a carotene supplement?
Since carotene supplements are a relatively new product on the market, there is still ongoing research into whether their benefits are equal to the consumption of carotene-rich fruits and vegetables. These products have been used for the treatment and prevention of the following conditions:
- Reduction of exercise-induced asthma attacks
- Control of age-related macular degeneration
- Improvement of skin tone and prevention of sunburn
- Treatment of sunburns after their appearance
- Treatment of whitish lesions on tongue and palate (leukoplakia)
- Improvement of health status in post-partum women (who have recently given birth)
The intake of these supplements may contribute to improving the health of people who, for whatever reason, cannot integrate food products with α-carotene, β-carotene, or lycopene into their diet. These include people with a lack of appetite, those on restrictive diets, the elderly, or those recovering from illnesses.
What precautions should I take while supplementing with carotene?
Be careful of medicine interactions: Unfortunately, carotene supplements can affect the actions of certain medicines. Users of the following compounds are advised to consult their physician before starting to supplement with carotene:
- Statins (treatment for cholesterol control)
- Cholestyramine (treatment for cholesterol control)
- Orlistat (slimming drug)
- Verteporfin (treatment of age-related macular degeneration)
- Vitamin A (supplement)
- Lutein (supplement)
Keep to the recommended dose: Excessive use of supplements containing α- and β-carotenes may cause poisoning symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss and, in severe cases, liver damage. Exceeding the recommended dose of lycopene, on the other hand, may provoke skin rashes.
Avoid long-term supplementation: Maintaining healthy carotene levels decreases the risk of certain types of cancer (such as breast cancer) and improves our overall health. However, daily supplementation for over a year may increase the risk of tumors. This is why prolonged use is not recommended.
Smokers should avoid them: An increased risk of lung cancer has been found in smokers who take carotene supplements. This relationship only exists with dietary supplements and not with carotenes found in a regular diet, so smokers are advised to obtain their antioxidants exclusively through food.
Be careful with alcohol: Alcohol is a powerful oxidising agent, capable of damaging the organs of your body. People with a liver damaged by excessive alcohol consumption should avoid the consumption of carotene supplements. These compounds may increase alcohol-induced liver damage.
Control your vitamin A levels: People who are supplementing with vitamin A or who have high vitamin A levels should not use provitamin A carotene supplements. This would expose them to possible hypervitamin A poisoning.
Carotenemia is a sign of overconsumption: High consumption of carotene-rich foods or supplements will give a characteristic yellowish or orange tone to the skin. While this condition known as carotenemia is not dangerous in itself, it indicates the overconsumption of these products.
Last but not least, keep in mind that a health professional must supervise supplementation in children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women at all times. While carotenes have been used to solve nutritional deficiencies in these population groups, their use cannot be recommended without first assessing the individual needs of each person.
You now know all the secrets of carotenes. However, it is absolutely essential that you choose the right product for your needs – especially since it offers as many benefits as possible side effects. In the section below, we have detailed the key criteria that you should evaluate before making your purchase. That way, you can improve your health while taking care of your budget, too.
- Allergens & Intolerances
- Vegan & Vegetarian Diet
- Type of Supplement
- Additional Compounds
- Dosage Form
Allergens & Intolerances
Unfortunately, some people can develop intolerance to carotenes. People with a carrot allergy, in particular, should refrain from taking these supplements. If you suffer from skin irritation, shortness of breath, or while using these products, you may be having an allergic reaction and should seek medical help.
Vegan & Vegetarian Diet
Remember that carotenes are pigments of plant origin, which means that supplements suitable for vegans are easily synthesised. However, these molecules can be obtained from animals that consume plants rich in carotenes. Before you make your purchase, look for the certification that guarantees that your supplement is suitable for vegans.
Type of Supplement
Remember that products with α- and β-carotenes will be converted to vitamin A. This is why you should only opt for these products if you have low vitamin A levels. Otherwise, you will benefit much more from a lycopene-based supplement that won't raise the concentration of retinol in your body.
Carotene supplements can be combined with other compounds such as vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts. If you want to make the most of the antioxidant properties of carotenes, we encourage you to choose a combination with vitamin E. Studies have suggested that these substances could act synergistically, enhancing their anti-aging effects.
Tablets and softgels are the two most commonly used dosage forms for carotene. Tablets are a stable and long-lasting form of supplementation, although you will need to take them with fatty foods to ensure absorption. Softgels, on the other hand, need to be carefully stored and contain oil, facilitating the assimilation of the supplement by the body.
Carotenes are potent antioxidants that have been shown to increase life expectancy and reduce the frequency of chronic diseases when adequate amounts are added to the diet. However, the use of these plant pigment supplements remains controversial and should be assessed according to the individual needs of each consumer.
While their effects on vision and the health of the cardiovascular system are still being researched, we now know that the conscious and informed use of carotene supplements will help protect our skin from the sun's rays, preventing the appearance of premature wrinkles. If you want to tan safely this summer, try carotene!
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(Source of featured image: Microgen: 120510060/ 123rf.com)