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Acta Biochim Pol. 2012;59(1):27-30. Epub 2012 Mar 17.

Interactions of dietary carotenoids with singlet oxygen (1O2) and free radicals: potential effects for human health.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Charité-Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany.


The dietary carotenoids provide photoprotection to photosynthetic organisms, the eye and the skin. The protection mechanisms involve both quenching of singlet oxygen and of damaging free radicals. The mechanisms for singlet oxygen quenching and protection against free radicals are quite different - indeed, under some conditions, quenching of free radicals can lead to a switch from a beneficial anti-oxidant process to damaging pro-oxidative situation. Furthermore, while skin protection involves β-carotene or lycopene from a tomato-rich diet, protection of the macula involves the hydroxyl-carotenoids (xanthophylls) zeaxanthin and lutein. Time resolved studies of singlet oxygen and free radicals and their interaction with carotenoids via pulsed laser and fast electron spectroscopy (pulse radiolysis) and the possible involvement of amino acids are discussed and used to (1) speculate on the anti- and pro-oxidative mechanisms, (2) determine the most efficient singlet oxygen quencher and (3) demonstrate the benefits to photoprotection of the eye from the xanthophylls rather than from hydrocarbon carotenoids such as β-carotene.

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