Carotenoids for Dietary Photoprotection

Mar 20, 2014 | Contact Author | By: Maxwell Xiong, The Waterford School, Sandy, UT, USA; Howard I. Maibach, MD, University of California at San Francisco, CA, USA
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Title: Carotenoids for Dietary Photoprotection
Photoprotectionx sun protectionx carotenoidsx β-carotenex
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Keywords: Photoprotection | sun protection | carotenoids | β-carotene

Abstract: Sun exposure leads to the production of free radicals in skin and to damage to elastin and collagen, resulting in premature aging. Studies of consuming carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables have shown lower incidences of skin pathology. Carotenoids are among the most efficient natural scavengers of free radicals and may be used as oral sun protection, as is discussed here.

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M Xiong and HI Maibach, Carotenoids for Dietary Photoprotection, Cosm & Toil 129(3) 22 (Apr 2014)

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Human skin is continuously exposed to free radicals; not just ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation but the visible and infrared range of the spectra, as well. Sun exposure leads to the production of free radicals in the skin. These highly reactive molecules serve an important function in humans, acting against viruses and bacteria as well as processing signals on a cellular level. However, if the concentration of free radicals exceeds a critical level, cells and their compartments can be harmed. UV radiation is, in fact, a major cause for sunburn, photodamage, premature skin aging and skin cancer. Sun exposure also leads to damage in skin’s elastic fibers, i.e., elastin and collagen, resulting in premature aging.

The body’s own antioxidant systems can provide a complex defense against free radicals, counteracting their highly reactive and destructive effects and neutralizing them to prevent cell and tissue damage. Antioxidants in human skin include carotenoids and vitamins, as well as various enzymes. Since humans cannot produce these substances naturally, they must be supplemented in the diet, particularly in the form of fruits and vegetables. In fact, research has shown that individuals consuming high levels of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids have lower incidences of skin pathology. In vitro and in vivo evidence demonstrates the role of endogenous carotenoids in the systemic protection and maintenance of skin health. In this article, they are considered for potential photoprotection.

Chemistry of Dietary Carotenoids

Carotenoids are yellow, orange and red pigments synthesized by plants. Those most common in North American diets are α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Most carotenoids have a polyisoprenoid structure with a long chain of conjugated double bonds and nearly bilateral symmetry around the central double bond. Carotenoids are tetraterpenoid compounds containing 40 carbon atoms arranged in a repeating pattern of five carbon units.

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Table 1. Carotenoids and Effects on Photoprotection

Table 1. Carotenoids and Effects on Photoprotection

Studies suggest that systemic supplementation of the diet with carotenoids leads to protection from erythema, a decrease in wrinkling and healthier skin in general, and carotenoids supplemented through the diet may be suitable compounds for photoprotection in humans.

Figure 1. Structures of common dietary carotenoids

Figure 1. Structures of common dietary carotenoids

Carotenoids are yellow, orange and red pigments synthesized by plants. Those most common in North American diets are α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.

Footnotes [Xiong, Maibach 129(3)]

a, b Lyc-O-Mato and Lyc-O-Guard, LycoRed

Guest Contributor: Maxwell Xiong

Max Xiong

Maxwell Xiong is currently a senior at The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah, and carried out his internship at Maibach’s lab in the Department of Dermatology, UCSF. Xiong is the founder of Max Nutrition, a non-profit student organization that focuses on micronutrients and malnutrition. His research project involves non-invasive assessments of vitamin A status by using carotenoids in the skin as biomarker.

Biography: Howard I. Maibach, MD, University of California, San Francisco

Howard I. Maibach, MD, is a professor of derma­tology at the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco. His labor­atory has been interested in and has published exten­sively on derm­ato­pharma­cology and dermatotoxicology.

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