Carotenoids are organic pigments that naturally occur in certain plants and algae. Common plant-derived carotenoids include lycopene (tomatoes), lutein (green and yellow vegetables and fruits), and beta-carotene (carrots, spinach, peaches, apricots). Since few people consume adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, supplementation is often required.
Carotenoids have many health benefits. They provide significant antioxidant activity, helping to destroy free radicals that can damage the body’s systems and cause disease. Lutein is known to improve eye health by fighting macular degeneration and protecting against cataracts. Lycopene shows some clinical efficacy in reducing prostate cancer risk, while beta carotene is critical to the body’s production of vitamin A, or retinol. In additon, both alpha- and beta-carotene have been clinically shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.