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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2003 Mar;73(2):95-100.

Non-nutritive bioactive constituents of plants: lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, P.O. Box 10 10 07, D-40001 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are major carotenoids in human blood and tissues but unlike beta-carotene do not contribute to vitamin A supply. These carotenoids are efficient antioxidants quenching singlet molecular oxygen which is formed in photooxidative processes and thus may contribute to the prevention of light-exposed tissue, skin and eyes, from light-induced damage. Increasing lycopene intake by daily consumption of tomato paste over a period of ten weeks provides protection against erythema formation following UV-irradiation. Lycopene and other carotenoids may be used as oral sun protectants and contribute to the maintenance of skin health. The yellow color of the macula lutea is due to the presence of the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. These macula carotenoids are suggested to play a role in protection against light-dependent damage. Filtering of blue light and scavenging of reactive intermediates generated in photooxidation are considered to be the underlying protective mechanisms. Epidemiological studies provide evidence that an increased consumption of lutein is associated with a lowered risk for age-related macular degeneration, a disease with increasing incidence in the elderly.

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