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Facts of Carotenoids

Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants, like fruits and vegetable.
Food chemists and natural product scientists have identified hundreds of phytochemicals which has many benefits for health.
One of these compounds is Carotenoids

Here are the facts:

1. Carotenoids are the widely distributed, naturally occurring pigments responsible for the yellow, orange, and red colors of fruits, roots, flowers, fish, invertebrates, and birds. 

They also occur in algae, bacteria, molds, and yeast. In higher plants, they occur in the photosynthetic tissue, the choloroplast, where their color is masked by that of the more predominant green chlorophyll.

2. There are basically two types of carotenoids; those containing hydrocarbon (e.g.,carotene) and those containing oxygen (e.g., xanthophylls). 

3. More than 600 carotenoids now known, about 50 could be precursors of vitamin A, based on structural considerations.

4. The intensity of food color depends on which carotenoids are present, their concentrations, physical states, as well as the presence or absence of any other plant pigments, such as chlorophyll.

5. Carotenoids are hydrophobic, lipophilic substances and are virtually insoluble in water. 

6. In plants and animals carotenoids occur as crystals or amorphous solids, in solution in lipid media, in colloidal dispersion, or combined with protein in an aqueous layer.

7. In green leaves, β(beta)-carotene (carotenoids containing hydrocarbon) molecules are organized in pigment-protein complexes located in cell chloroplasts. In fruits, the molecules are found in lipid droplets and chromoplasts.

8. The important benefits of carotenoids are: 

- Blok free-radical mediated reaction 

- Decreased risk of cataract formation

- Prevention of macular degeneration

- Prevention of cardiovascular disease

- Immunoenhancement: enhancement of the immune system

- Inhibition of cancer development 

9. More than 600 carotenoids now known, about 50 could be precursors of vitamin A, based on structural considerations. 

10. Epidemiological data14 show that increased consumption of beta carotene-rich foods and higher blood levels of βcarotene are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer.

11. Many carotenoids have the ability to quench singlet oxygen and thus function as antioxidants

References:

1. Rodriguez-Amaya, D.B., Carotenoids and Food Preparation: The retention of provitamin A carotenoids in prepared, processed, and stored foods. USAID/OMNI publication, 1997.

2. Bauernfeind, J.C., Carotenoid vitamin A precursors and analysis in foods and feeds, J. Agric Food Chem., 20, 456, 1972.