Carotenoids are defined as natural pigments synthesized by plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria. Carotenoids belong to a class of molecules consisting of more than 750 naturally occurring yellow, orange, and red pigments that gives color to several fruits and vegetables. Xanthophylls are oxygenated carotenoids, and include lutein, zeaxanthin, and others, whereas, carotenes are unoxygenated carotenoids that involve alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and other molecules. As a food additive, carotenoids play an important role in the global food industry.
Carotenoids: Market Outlook
The increasing use of carotenoids in developing an alternative treatment for various diseases, including eye disorders, diabetes, cancer, and aging, has boosted their popularity among consumers. Also, carotenoids are extensively utilized as natural coloring agents by the food and beverage industry. Carotenoids also find application in nutraceutical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. A steady rise in the demand for organic and natural food has been observed, owing to increasing health implications and the growing importance of sustainability. Carotenoid supplements have become highly popular among health-conscious consumers. But, their unregulated high utilization and associated health risks are factors that are expected to challenge the future demand for carotenoids. This is primarily attributed to the launch of new products with natural ingredients. In Europe, carotenoids are the most preferred food coloring agents.
Rising Incidences of Eye Diseases and Cancer to Enhance Carotenoid Consumption
Cancer has created a significant social as well as economic health burden, accounting for 8.8 million global deaths in 2015, and US$ 87.8 billion expenditure for the direct medical costs of cancer treatment in the United States. WHO estimates that 253 million people are living with vision impairment, among which, 217 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision impairment, and 36 million are blind. Carotenoids have been studied for their anti-carcinogenic properties. The consumption of beta-carotene-rich green and yellow vegetables and possible prevention of cancer (lung) has been studied extensively. Other carotenoids such as lycopene and canthaxanthin are also being studied for the prevention of prostate, lung cancer, and colon cancer. Xanthophyll (oxygen-containing) carotenoids such as lutein, astaxanthin, and zeaxanthin are being studied for the prevention of age-related eye diseases and eye health maintenance. The increasing use of carotenoids in preventing chronic diseases is likely to increase their demand in the near future.
Organic and Natural Food Ingredients Remain a Top Priority Among Consumers
While organic farming is a convenient alternative to traditional agriculture practices, it also contributes to sustainability in terms of food safety and quality, as well as in animal and environmental welfare. Awareness regarding the benefits of organic food consumption has increased, owing to the associated positive impacts on health, lifestyle, social convenience, and greater contribution in sustainable development. Consumers are becoming specific while purchasing products in terms of origin, manufacturing, and ingredients, which has been constantly driving the demand for natural carotenoids in recent years. Owing to this, natural carotenoids are giving competition to existing GMO and other synthetic food colorants.
High Levels of Blood Carotenoids to Decrease Cellular Ageing
Cellular aging is associated with the shortening of telomeres. Aging follows shortening of telomeres with every replication due to oxidative stress, and total consumption of telomeres leads to cell apoptosis (death). Studies are in progress to understand the role of carotenoids as antioxidants and the telomere shortening mechanism. Some studies suggest that, high blood levels of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin show longer telomere lengths in leukocytes. Such studies are encouraging the R&D initiatives in applications of carotenoids for addressing the challenges of aging.
Carotenoid Supplements are Assisting in the Treatment of Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A (retinoic acid) is an important nutrient essential for vision, cell division, growth, immunity, and reproduction. It also has antioxidant properties that prevent the body cells against the toxic effects of free radicals produced during cellular metabolism. Vitamin A deficiency leads to vision impairments such as xerophthalmia and night blindness, impairs the immunity as well as hematopoiesis, and may cause rashes on the skin. Vitamin A deficiency is a prominent public health concern in various parts of the world, notably in Africa and Southeast Asia, affecting young children and pregnant women in low-income countries, which has increased the demand for carotenoids as a beneficial food additive. The preventive role of different carotenoids for vitamin A deficiency is reflecting favorably on their global consumption.
Dietary Carotenoids Reduce Type-2 Diabetes Risk
Owing to their antioxidant properties, carotenoids are known to reduce the risk of diabetes. There have been studies associated with the dietary intake of carotenoids and risk of type 2 diabetes. One such study has revealed that, those following a diet of high beta-carotenes and alpha-carotenes present reduced risks of type 2 diabetes incidences among generally healthy men and women.
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