Carotenoids, the colourful pigments in plants, are powerful antioxidants that are thought to help in the prevention of certain types of cancers and eye disease.

What are their health benefits?

Carotenoids are found in certain foods, mainly fruits, grains, oils and vegetables. The most well-known carotenoids are betacarotene, Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Reportedly, one of the main benefits of carotenoids is their powerful antioxidant role in fighting disease – they are thought to possibly help prevent or treat a number of conditions, including vaginal yeast infections, asthma, cervical cancer, heart disease, AIDS, lung cancer, skin cancer and pneumonia.

Do you have a deficiency?

Carotenoid deficiency doesn’t cause any adverse symptoms but it can contribute to vitamin A deficiency. Lack of vitamin A and betacarotene can lead to a low red blood cell count or anaemia. Symptoms include impaired vision, and impaired organ and tissue function.

Warning symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency include frequent viral infections and hyperkeratosis, a goose bump-like skin condition caused by an excess of keratin, a protein that blocks hair follicles.

Long-term deficiency of carotenoids may increase your risk of cancer and heart disease. It can also contribute to oxidative cell damage caused by free radicals.

Find it in these foods

While many animal food products contain or are fortified with vitamin A, carotenoids can help increase vitamin A production in our bodies, without adding extra fat, kilojoules or cholesterol.

Foods containing carotenoids include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Carrot juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Apricots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Plums
  • Mangoes
  • Cantaloupes
  • Coriander
  • Fresh thyme
  • Turnip greens
  • Winter squash

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

There are no recommendations for the maximum daily dietary intake of carotenoids, but dietary supplements of carotenoids are not recommended as their safety and efficacy are yet to be established, so first speak to your Clicks pharmacist or your doctor before starting supplementation.

There is also no information on the safety of carotenoid dietary supplements in children, or women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding, so rather avoid.

Know the overdose risks

Too many carotenoids can cause a minor condition known as carotenodermia. This leads to yellowish skin discoloration, usually on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Lycopenodermia, which occurs when you eat too many Lycopene-rich foods, causes orange discoloration of the skin.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015