Carotenoids

Carotenoids are Terpenoid compounds that, besides their typical pigmenting characteristics (yellow, orange or red pigments), function as precursors of molecules with biological activity intervening in different vital biological and physiological processes.

Over 700 different carotenoids have been recognized in nature. Carotenoids are classified in two major groups: carotenes, which are hydrocarbon molecules comprising atoms of carbon; and hydrogen only. Representative examples of carotenes include ß Carotene and Lycopene, and also Xanthophylls, which are oxygenated derivatives of the carotenes. Examples of Xanthophylls include Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Capsanthin, Astaxanthin and Cantaxanthin.

Carotenoids are widely distributed in nature. Total annual production in nature is estimated at over 100 million tons. Carotenoids intervene in the physiology of all living organisms. They are produced in nature by photosynthetic and enzymatic reactions carried by marine microorganisms as microalgae, bacteria, fungi, zooplancton and in most terrestrial living plants occur in leaves, flowers and fruits, also as a result of photosynthetic and enzymatic reactions.

In flowers and fruits, carotenoids impart vivid yellow, orange and red colors. In birds, carotenoids play the role of vital functions as well as cosmetic purposes. They also differentiate genders and are indicative of sexual maturity and attraction.

In marine organisms, carotenoids are more abundant than in terrestrial organisms and are responsible for several vital biological, physiological, metabolic and reproductive functions. Carotenoids provide color to krill, salmon, trout, red sea bream, yellow tail tuna, crustaceans, etc.

No animal species are capable of synthesizing carotenoids, therefore they need to obtain their requirements through the diet. Broilers and layers grown in captivity require a given dose of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in their feed in order to supplement their requirements. Laying hens accumulate Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the yolk. The female protects the embryo against the oxidative damage provoked by the free radicals that occur due to the high rate of metabolic reactions in the rapidly developing embryo. Broilers, on the other hand, accumulate Lutein and Zeaxanthin in their adipose tissue as well as in the skin. Such deposits act as reservoirs of carotenoids and become available when required to perform specific physiological functions.

Some carotenoids are metabolized by terrestrial or marine organism into Vitamin A. Such carotenoids are the only source of Vitamin A for herbivores or omnivores living in their natural environment.

Carotenoids act as effective antioxidants in most living organisms. They have the capability to chelate free radicals that are produced in metabolic reactions at the cellular level, avoiding tissue degradation.

Extensive research in the past decade indicates that the presence of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the macula helps the prevention of age related macular degeneration in humans, as well as avoid the development of cataracts. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are also present in the corpus luteum, breast milk, human serum and in the adipose tissues.

Dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, yellow corn and many fruits like oranges, mangoes, grapefruit, etc., are the natural source of dietary carotenoids. However, chloroplast or chromoplast and other plant structural materials may not be the ideal source of carotenoids for human consumption due to their low bioavailability.

The development of carotenoids with improved stability and bioavailability is of utmost importance.

Industrial Orgánica processes carotenoids obtained only from natural sources. Those carotenoids are refined in order to obtain them as pure compounds. Through dedicated R&D we have been able to modify and convert them into derivatives that are more efficient, more bioavailable and more stable. All of this has enabled us to be leaders in natural carotenoid development for the poultry industry, as well as for aquaculture and human consumption applications.

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