Lutein and Zeaxanthin Vs Beta-Carotene
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Lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene are only three of more than 600 different kinds of carotenoids that have been discovered so far. Carotenoids are naturally occurring organic pigments that plants, algae, as well as several fungi and bacteria produce during their photosynthesis process. These pigments are responsible for giving a wide variety of fruits and vegetables their natural colors yellow, orange, and red.
Lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene are some vital nutrients found in the human diet and they act as potent antioxidants that play many different roles in the body. Here we’ll discuss everything you need to know related to lutein and zeaxanthin vs beta-carotene in terms of their effects and benefits on the human body so that you will have a clear idea of when you need to focus on lutein and zeaxanthin and when on beta-carotene. So, let’s get started.
Table of contents
- Understanding carotenoids and their types
- What are lutein and zeaxanthin?
- What is beta-carotene?
- Health benefits: lutein and zeaxanthin vs beta-carotene
- Final words
Understanding carotenoids and their types
Carotenoids, otherwise known as tetraterpenoids, are naturally occurring organic pigments that are synthesized by plants and algae as well as certain types of photosynthetic fungi and bacteria. Along with yellow, orange, and red there are more than 600 kinds of naturally occurring carotenoids known so far that are widely present in fruits and vegetables and play a significant role in the human diet. The most common and perhaps the most studied ones are lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
Carotenoids are mainly classified into two broad categories - xanthophylls and carotenes. Xanthophylls contain molecular oxygen while carotenes do not; rather they are hydrocarbons. Lutein and zeaxanthin come under the xanthophyll group while beta-carotene falls under the carotene group of carotenoids. Carotenoids show significant antioxidant actions in the body and therefore help the human body in many ways.
What are lutein and zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin fall under the xanthophyll group of carotenoids that are yellow in color and often described unitedly since they are the only carotenoids present in the human retina. Food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include various dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, pumpkin, turnip greens, egg yolks, grapes, squash, and avocado, corn, orange pepper, and kiwi among others.
What is beta-carotene?
Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment that falls under the carotene group of carotenoids. The term “carotene” came from “Daucus carrots”, the Latin name for carrots. Common food sources of beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, apricot, and winter squash among others.
Health benefits: lutein and zeaxanthin vs beta-carotene
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily associated with eye health benefits. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most prevalent carotenoids that accumulate in the human eye, particularly the retina and macula. They are assumed to act like a light filter that plays an essential role in protecting the eye tissues from damage caused by sunlight, especially the blue ones.
Since the macula is responsible for central vision, lutein and zeaxanthin may improve a person’s vision quality by protecting the macula from sun damage.
Here are some eye conditions where lutein and zeaxanthin might help:
- AMD (age-related macular degeneration) - a 2012 systematic review and analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that dietary lutein and zeaxanthin might be protective against late age-related macular degeneration, but further research is needed to confirm this relationship.
- Uveitis - this is caused by inflammation in the middle layer. Lutein and zeaxanthin have significant anti-inflammatory actions that can inhibit the inflammatory process involved.
- Cataracts - these conditions are characterized by cloudy patches build-up in the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin have the ability to slow down the formation of these patches in the eyes.
- Diabetic retinopathy - lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to be useful in reducing the oxidative stress caused by diabetes that may damage the retina.
- Eye detachment - animal studies suggest that lutein can lessen cell deaths in eye detachment.
Apart from the above said eye health benefits, lutein can reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, a process of cholesterol plaque build-up in the blood vessels, and thus help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Beta-carotene is the most potent provitamin A carotenoid, meaning it turns into vitamin A when it enters the body. Vitamin A plays many different important roles in the human body ranging from protecting the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and night blindness to promoting growth and development to strengthening immune function.
Beta-carotene may help protect your skin from sunburn. A 2008 meta-analysis report published in Photochemistry and Photobiology concluded that dietary supplementation with beta-carotene can provide protection against sunburn in a time-bound manner.
Beta-carotene may also help reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome in elderly and middle-aged individuals. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that intake of dietary carotenoids with beta-carotene and others may reduce the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in elderly and middle-aged men.
The effects of lutein and zeaxanthin vs beta-carotene on the human body are impressive. Since they all are carotenoids and have potent antioxidant properties, they provide several health benefits both, in combination as well as when taken separately.
However, lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily associated with eye, heart, and cognitive health, and beta-carotene is primarily associated with added vitamin A, immune support, and overall growth and development. When it comes to choosing between lutein and zeaxanthin vs beta-carotene, it depends on the specific health conditions and goals. Like with all supplements, consult with a licensed naturopath to determine your safety and methods of use before using any supplements.
Here you can see Vorst’s pure and natural Lutein 18 mg with Zeaxanthin Capsules
Here you can see Vorst’s pure and natural Beta-Carotene 1.5 mg (5000 IU) Vitamin A Capsules