Lifestyle Fashion

Years to the ground

Have you ever wondered why prolonged exposure to UV radiation leads to premature ageing? The skin, our single largest organ, is the frontline against the elements, making it the best place to study the ageing process. In the quest to decode the mechanisms behind ageing, attention has now turned to oxidation processes, particularly those exacerbated by UV radiation. Here’s where carotenoids, the unsung heroes of natural antioxidants, step into the limelight.

These vibrant compounds, responsible for the yellow, orange, and red hues in plants, coexist with chlorophyll in chloroplasts or separately in chromoplasts, and aren’t just visual delights but potent health protectors. According to Delhi-based Dermatologist Meenakshi Jangid, “Carotenoids act like conductors in your skincare, orchestrating defence against UV damage, free radicals, and stress for radiant skin harmony.”

What are Carotenoids?

Meet the diverse family of carotenoids. From the eye-protecting lutein to the heart-healthy lycopene, each member plays a unique role in our health. “Carotenes, the orange subgroup of carotenoids, include alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene. Enzymatic action converts alpha- and gamma carotene into one vitamin A molecule, while beta-carotene transforms into two vitamin A molecules.

Notably, not all carotenoids serve as vitamin A precursors. Adequate beta- and alpha-carotene intake prevents vitamin A deficiency, supporting tissue regeneration and preventing degeneration in various bodily structures. Xanthophylls, the yellow or yellow-orange subgroup, exhibit greater structural diversity than carotenes. Capsorubin, capsanthin in paprika, and fucoxanthin in diatoms and brown algae, with its abundant masking of chlorophyll, exemplify the variety within this category,” explains Priti Gupta, a nutritionist from Bengaluru.

What makes Carotenoids special?

Carotenoids are not just pigments; they are powerful antioxidants. Mumbai-based dermatologist Nidhi Sahai explains, “Their ability to neutralise free radicals helps reduce inflammation, lowers cancer risk, combats heart disease, and even slows ageing.”

Skin ageing is determined by both genetic predispositions and environmental influences. “Skin, being exposed to the elements, ages faster than other organs. Understanding the ageing mechanisms is crucial for developing interventions,” says Dr Jangid.

Carotenoids as protectors

Carotenoids emerge as formidable protectors for both the heart and eyes, providing a shield against diseases such as cardiovascular issues, stroke, prostate cancer, and eye conditions like cataracts. “Lutein and zeaxanthin, crucial carotenoids, take centre stage as eye health boosters, residing in the retina and safeguarding against optical diseases, contributing to healthy eyes. Post-workout, they play a key role in muscle recovery.

Additionally, carotenoids, including beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, potentially decrease the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Lutein, another noteworthy carotenoid, enhances bone mass, contributing to overall bone health,” says Mohit Tandon, Nutritionist, Max Multi Speciality Hospital in Noida.

While celebrating the positives of carotenoids, Tandon warns, “They are essential but not a panacea. Excessive intake can lead to carotenodermia, and they should be part of a balanced diet”.

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