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What do Free Radicals and Carotenoids have to do with each other?

free radicals and carotenoids

Free radicals and Carotenoids, a common part of life, are complete opposites. Free radicals destroy molecules and antioxidants remove them.

What are free radicals? Free radicals are formed as byproducts of oxidation which is a highly reactive chemical process. This often contains oxygen and is produced when molecules are split to give products unpaired electrons (a process called oxidation). Free radicals can damage important cellular molecules such as DNA or lipids or other parts
of the cell and increase the risk of disease.

Free radicals are also created by sunlight, radiation, cigarette smoke, smog, heavy metals, ozone, organic solvents, pesticides, herbicides, food additives, and many drugs. Fortunately, nature has a solution to the free radical problem.

Antioxidants destroy free radicals but are themselves destroyed in the process; therefore they must constantly be replenished. Mother Nature has packaged antioxidant nutrients in the fruits and vegetables we eat to prevent their spoilage. But they also may forestall our "spoilage". So, free radicals and carotenoids have a smashing relationship.

carotenoids and veggies, carotenoid function

What is the carotenoid function in regards to our health? Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. They are natural plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their beautiful colors, such as the yellow, orange, red and green found in foods like: tomatoes, carrots, spinach, red bell peppers, strawberries, apricots, and peaches.

Along with these foods there are non-food sources such as flowers, synthetic sources and algae that may be avoided when considering an all natural supplement. There are two categories of Carotenoids: carotenes (mostly yellow) and xanthophylls (mostly orange).

Antioxidant phytonutrients such as carotenoids support a strong immune system, normal cell growth, and long term health of the heart, lungs and eyes.

*Carotenoids offer more antioxidant power then vitamins C & E. They contribute to antioxidant activity in cellular lipids. A typical human cell undergoes 10,000 oxidative “hits” to its DNA every day!

words to describe picture

DNA damage accumulates over time, and so does the risk of cancer, one of the diseases linked to free-radical damage. Antioxidants may lessen the lifetime risk of cancer, not only because they prevent free-radical damage, but also because they boost the immune system, which is the body’s first line of defense against disease.

USDA researchers

Less then 9% of us are getting the recommended optimal servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Experts recommend consuming at least 6 mg of Carotenoids daily, but it’s estimated that most people actually take in only 1.5 mg per day. This statistic suggests that many people may have an imbalance regarding free radicals and carotenoids within their body.

protect heart, protect cells, boost immune system

Carotenoid Complex was the only product selected by *USDA researchers for use in human clinical trials, where it was shown to:

  • Boost immune cells 37% in just 20 days
  • Contribute to the body’s natural antioxidant activity in cellular lipids
  • Support the body’s response to oxidative stress (curbs damage to cells by 44%)
  • Promote cardiovascular health and offer antioxidant protection from LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increase natural killer cells by 20%

About 600 carotenoids have been identified so far, 50-60 of which appear in our food supply. We will only focus on 15 powerful members of the carotenoid family:

  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Cis-beta-carotene
  • Gamma-carotene
  • Zeta-carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Cis-lycopene
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Alpha-cryptoxanthin
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin
  • Violaxanthin
  • Canthaxanthin
  • Capsanthin
  • Cryptocapsin

The above fall into the following five categories:

  1. Carotenes. Carotenes, such as alpha-, beta-, cis-beta-, gamma-, and zeta-carotene, have some pro-vitamin A activity. Others, such as lycopene, do not. Most carotenes are found in yellow-orange fruits and vegetables such as apricots, mangoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

  2. Cryptoxanthins. Both alpha- and beta-cryptoxanthin are in the xanthophyll group and are abundant in red bell peppers, peaches, oranges, tangerines, and yellow corn.

  3. Lutein. This is the primary xanthophyll in spinach. It is also found in peaches, squash, kale, and broccoli.

  4. Lycopene. Lycopene and cis-lycopene provide the red color in tomatoes, guavas, and pink grapefruit. Among the carotenoids, lycopene is the most efficient quencher of singlet oxygen free radicals.

  5. Xanthophylls. The xanthophylls include oxygenated carotenoids like lutein, cryptoxanthin, alpha- and betacryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, violaxanthin, canthaxanthin, capsanthin, and cryptocapsin. High levels of xanthophylls are found in leafy green vegetables, including spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens.

    How do free radicals and carotenoids affect our health?

    Carotenoids are especially important to the health, growth, and longevity of cells. They may protect us from disease in three distinct ways:

    1. Prevention of disease. As potent antioxidants, carotenoids shield our cells from free radical-induced oxidative stress, thus preventing the initiation of the chain of cellular events that may lead to the development of cancer and other diseases. Nature has a way of balancing our body's systems regarding free radicals and carotenoids. Carotenoids may help prevent some of the free radical damage linked to age-related diseases such as:

    • cardiovascular disease
    • cancer
    • degenerative eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration
    • decline of the immune system
    • degenerative diseases of the nervous system

    2. Intervention in the disease process. By interrupting oxidation reactions, as well as stimulating and fortifying immune function, carotenoids maximize the body’s natural defense systems and may lower the risk of disease development.

    3. Repair. Carotenoids have been shown to provide benefits in precancerous conditions for both oral and cervical cancer. They appear to stop the progression of these diseases and may help the body repair some of the damage that has already been done.

    As health challenges all around us continue to increase, we must ensure that our free radicals and carotenoids are in balance. Our physical wellness from the health of our heart to the health of our cells, from fending off the common cold to tackling something as uncommon as the "bird flu," carotenoids play a vital role. We need to make sure we're getting all the carotenoids our body needs, in all the forms nature intended.

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