What is so special about carrots?
Whats so special about carrots?
arrots are known to contain abundant amounts of carotenoids which are a widespread family of plant pigments found mostly in vegetables (and some fruits) that are red, orange, and deep yellow in color. Sea animals with a red or pinkish color, such as salmon, lobster, shrimp and crab also contain a carotenoid named astaxanthin that they absorb from the algae in their diets.
Much like the anthocyanins, carotenoids are antioxidants that protect plants against oxidative stress from ultraviolet sunlight. When you eat these vegetables, you get the antioxidant benefits for yourself.
Many Carotenoids Still Are Unstudied
More than 700 carotenoids have been discovered thus far. Of these, only about a dozen have been studied close enough so that we know what they do. And while each one has its own benefits, a combination of them, as found in a balanced diet, have proven to be more effective than any individual one by itself.
Antioxidants always work better in combinations. Throughout this website, I will continue to point out the fact that antioxidants always work better when consumed in combinations. That’s a good reason why you should disregard the conclusions of any study that tries to isolate just one antioxidant in order to evaluate its effectiveness.
Benefits Offered by Carotenoids
Antioxidant benefits. Carotenoids are powerful anti-aging antioxidants, protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. As I mentioned above, they work in combination with each other and other antioxidants, including the network antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, lipoic acid, and the antioxidant enzymes produced in your body: superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase.
Adequate carotenoids offers these promising benefits:
1. Supports Eye Health
Do you remember adults telling you as a child that carrots were good for your eyes? As it turns out, this statement is founded in scientific truth. Carrots are an excellent source of carotenoids, including retinol and pro-vitamin A, both of which have therapeutic value for degenerative diseases of the retina. 
2. Cardiovascular Health
Population-based studies have demonstrated that carotenoids are effective for supporting cardiovascular health. Other nutrients that work together with carotenoids for protecting heart health include glutathione, vitamin E, and vitamin C. These findings have been echoed in numerous studies. 
3. Possible Anti-Tumor Properties?
It would be premature and overzealous to say that carotenoids prevent cancer, but it is known that carotenoids contain acetylenics, a group of metabolites known for combating tumor development. They also have action against harmful organisms and support the immune system. The combination of these properties have been so effective for fighting bacteria and immune-related infections that researchers are exploring their cytotoxic effects on multiple types of cancer. 
4. Male Fertility
The antioxidant effect of carotenoids may protect sperm health, according a recent 2013 study. This research found that carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, glutathione, N-acetylcysteine, and zinc notably improved the participants’ chances of becoming pregnant.  These nutrients can be accessed easily with a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
5. Skin Health
Studies have reported that the carotenoids beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin protect skin, tissue, and cells from environmental toxins and disease. Recent research has demonstrated that non-provitamin A carotenoids, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin, also have protective benefits for the skin.  To best support skin health, experts recommend vitamin A carotenoids from fresh vegetables and colorful fruits.
Carotenoids have also shown the ability to stimulate communication between cells, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Researchers believe that disrupted communication between cells may be a primary cause of cell overgrowth, a early marker for cancer development.
Different members of this family of antioxidants seem to protect against different types of cancer, again demonstrating the importance of getting a variety of them in your diet.
Members of the Carotenoid Family
I recommend that you browse through the individual pages for the members of the carotenoid family listed below. You’ll get a better idea of the specific benefits each one offers, and also learn if you’re getting enough of them in your diet. Shaklee Carotomax(R) provides all of these but dosage may vary among individuals.
Some antioxidants are found in only a few different foods, and it’s easy to miss out on one if you don’t eat a varied-enough diet or supplement.
For example: cooked tomatoes are the only excellent source of lycopene, a powerful anti-cancer antioxidant. If you don’t eat tomato sauce on a regular basis, you aren’t getting much lycopene in your diet. And your body does not build up reserves of lycopene; it needs to be replenished frequently.
- Beta carotene — Pro-vitamin A (meaning that it converts to vitamin A in the body). Provides powerful antioxidant protection against heart disease, cancer and respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin — These are the only carotenoids found in the retina and lens of the eye. They help reduce your risk of developing age-related cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.
- Lycopene — A more powerful antioxidant than beta carotene; promotes prostate health and cancer prevention; mostly associated with tomatoes, its primary source.
- Astaxanthin — The most powerful of the carotenoids, by far. Astaxanthin can penetrate into every part of the cell, an extraordinary quality.
So, How Do You Know If You Need More? Check your skin!
Compare the color of your palm with a piece of white paper – is it yellow?
Hypercarotenemia, otherwise known as carotenosis, is when saturation levels of carotenoids are present in the body. It is actually a perfectly harmless effect. It’s the effect of turning spontaneously YELLOW (not actually orange), in response to eating too many carrots. But it’s not just carrots, it can also be papaw or pumpkin, or anything else with a large amount of vitamin A.
NOTE: The net effect looks a bit like jaundice (what with the yellow), but is distinguishable because it doesn’t effect the sclera, or whites, of the eyes.
Basically, the condition arises from eating too many carotenoid bearing foods or supplementing excessively. This usually makes you think of foods that are orange, but can also include green leafy veggies and yellow foods. These foods carry carotenoids, in particular those that are the precursors to vitamin A. Your body then breaks down the carotenoids to vitamin A, and then breaks it down further to be excreted. We know right now that there is a genetic mutation in producing the enzyme 15,150 -monooxygenase, which converts carotenoids to vitamin A, which can produce carotenosis, but there are other stages in this pathway too, and it’s possible that if one of them gets out of whack, you turn a little orange. The condition occurs most commonly in infants and children, and so the authors here ran a bunch of chemical tests trying to figure out WHY.
Research On Carotenoids
They took 21 kids reporting carotenosis, and took serum and fecal samples (ah, fecal samples, what fun!). They then ran them out on high performance liquid chromatography columns, which allow separation of fluids by their chemical content, to figure out exactly what was in them and in what amounts. You see, carotenoid breakdown goes in four stages.
1) alpha or beta carotene (or beta-cryptoxanthin if you’re eating papaw), the starting compound is converted to
2) Vitamin A. Excess amounts of vitamin A go to the liver and get broken down to
3) monohydroxy which undergoes another step to
4) polyhydroxy, which allows it to get
5) excreted in the urine.
By measuring the various amounts of these compounds, scientists could see where the system might be getting overloaded, and producing too much backup, thus producing the distinct yellow-orange hue. Of course there’s also the option of a vitamin A megadose, but many children develop the condition even without that.
And it turns out that how fast kids metabolism carotenoids varied VERY widely. Some had stoppages in steps 1-2, some in 2-3, some in 3-4, some in 4-5. But a lower amount in any one of those steps led to a HIGHER amount of buildup of compounds in the previous steps, resulting in buildups of carotenoids, and yellow skin. So any dysregulation in the pathway can screw you up…but only so much. It turns out the tightest control on the carotenosis was when they took the carrots (and pumpkin and papaw) AWAY from the children. All of them cleared up within weeks. So it appears in this case, you really ARE what you eat.
Luckily, the condition is entirely harmless (other than the panic induced in the parents by having a suddenly orange child), but it’s still really interesting to see how it happens! And for those of you looking yellowish, if it’s not jaundice, you may very well decide to lay off the carrots.