Beta-Carotene Vs Carotenoids
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In the comparison of beta-carotene vs carotenoids, we get that beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid, which is the most important provitamin A and also a potent antioxidant, whereas carotenoids are a large class of organic compounds that serve as accessory pigments in the process of photosynthesis and give vivid natural colors to photosynthetic organisms such as plants, photosynthetic bacteria, and fungi.
In this article, we’ll be comparing beta-carotene vs carotenoids in a more scientific manner along with their major similarities and differences. So, keep reading to learn more about these plant pigments.
Table of contents
- What is beta-carotene?
- What are carotenoids?
- Beta-carotene vs carotenoids: similarities and differences
- Final words
What is beta-carotene?
Beta-carotene is one of the most prevalent carotenoids, which gives vivid red to orange colors to many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, and mangoes. It comes under the category of carotenes. Carotenes are carotenoids that are hydrocarbons in their structures but do not contain any oxygen molecules, unlike their oxygenated counterparts xanthophylls.
When consumed, beta-carotene either serves as a strong antioxidant that helps protect cells and tissues against harmful damaging effects of free radicals or it gets broken down and converted into retinol (vitamin A) by bile salts and fats on reaching the small intestine, which the body can use for many bodily functions. A large portion of dietary vitamin A is provided by beta-carotene.
Since beta-carotene acts as a precursor in producing vitamin A in the body, it’s called provitamin A. Beta-carotene plays an important role in eye health and is also crucial for maintaining healthy skin. Regular consumption of vitamin A has been linked to a lowered risk of macular degeneration, stroke, coronary artery disease, and other age-related issues.
What are carotenoids?
Carotenoids are organic pigments called tetraterpenes that give many colorful vegetables and fruits their vivid natural yellow, orange, and red hues. These pigments are not only important for the mesmerizing colors of plants but are also vital for plant health. Individuals who consume carotenoids through foods get several health benefits as well.
Carotenoids are a class of chemicals (phytonutrients) that are only made during photosynthesis and therefore, found only in photosynthetic organisms including a wide range of plants, bacteria, and fungi. They serve as accessory pigments during photosynthesis and help absorb light energy in various wavelengths for use in the process. It's why they can give vibrant colors to colorful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupes, watermelons, and pumpkins.
When ingested, a small number of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, for instance, are converted to vitamin A (retinol) inside the body, which is critical for growth and development and also for eye health and vision. Other carotenoids have been shown to be powerful antioxidants and thereby, have strong cancer-prevention properties.
In addition, carotenoids also have some immune functions and significant anti-inflammatory effects on the body that can lower the risk of various cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack.
Over 600 carotenoids are there in the carotenoid family. The most common and studied ones are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. There are two major categories of carotenoids - carotenes and xanthophylls. The main difference between these two categories lies in their chemical structures, carotenes are hydrocarbons that do not have oxygen molecules and xanthophylls are their oxygenated counterparts.
Carotenes and xanthophylls absorb different light wavelengths during photosynthesis. Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene come under the carotenes category, while lutein and zeaxanthin come under the xanthophylls category of carotenoids.
Carotenoids are also classified into two nutritional categories - provitamin A and non-provitamin A. Beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene are converted into vitamin A inside the human body and called provitamin A carotenoids, while lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are non-provitamin A carotenoids but provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Beta-carotene is considered the most common as well as useful provitamin A in the entire carotenoid family.
Beta-carotene vs carotenoids: similarities and differences
- Both beta-carotene and carotenoids are tetraterpenes.
- They both act as accessory pigments during photosynthesis and help plants or other photosynthetic organisms absorb light.
- Both are responsible for the vivid natural colors of fruits and vegetables ranging from yellow to orange to red.
- They both have potent antioxidant activities in the body that can neutralize free radicals and help prevent cell damage caused by oxidative stress.
- Finally, they both have anti-inflammatory properties and some immune functions that can help prevent cardiovascular diseases and even certain types of cancer.
- Beta-carotene is only one of many other carotenoids, while carotenoids refer to an entire class of organic pigments that include alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and many others along with beta-carotene.
- Beta-carotene gives mainly an orange color to carrots and other plants, while carotenoids give a range of yellow, red, and orange colors to plant parts including autumn leaves and ripe tomatoes.
- Beta-carotene belongs to the carotene category of carotenoids, meaning it doesn’t contain oxygen in its structure, while carotenoids have another category of xanthophylls which are oxygenated hydrocarbons.
When we compare beta-carotene vs carotenoids, we get that beta-carotene is one of the many different carotenoids, which is responsible for the orange colors of carrots and other fruits and vegetables. It belongs to the carotene group of carotenoids that doesn’t contain oxygen in its structure. Beta-carotene is a provitamin A that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, especially for the eyes and skin.
On the other hand, carotenoids are a large class of organic pigments that contain two major types - carotenes and xanthophylls. Examples of carotenes include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene and examples of xanthophylls include lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids possess tremendous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body and can help prevent and manage many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
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