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The Colorful World of Carotenoids

It’s all about carotenoids.

With more than 1,000 types of carotenoids described, it is safe to say they have a wide variety of functions. But what makes them similar among each other is their chemical structure, which consists of a long chain of conjugated double bonds and a series of isoprene units, giving them their characteristic color and properties. In addition, carotenoids may contain functional groups such as hydroxyl, keto, or epoxy groups, which can modify their properties and biological activity, dividing them into two groups: xanthophylls (oxygen present in the structure), and carotenes (no oxygen is present in the structure). 

The general structure of a carotenoid 


Traveling through the food chain 

Animals are not able to produce carotenoids by themselves, but they are able to modify the ones ingested through the diet in order to obtain useful substances; for example, most animals are able to synthesize vitamin A from carotenoids like β-carotene, α-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin. As mentioned before, in the case of flamingos, they feed on brine shrimp, which turns red as they graze upon microalgae, as a result, they get their characteristic pink color.  

Why astaxanthin?  

Well, it turns out that astaxanthin is not only a very powerful antioxidant and booster of immunity when consumed; it also has some impressive properties that set it apart from the rest of the carotenoid groups. What makes astaxanthin stand out is its unique ability to protect against stress produced by the environment. It is produced by a few species of bacteria, microalgae, fungi, and other microscopic organisms called thraustochytrids, but the freshwater algae, Haematococcus Pluvialis is the non-GMO organism with the greatest capacity for astaxanthin accumulation.   

What about us?  

You might be wondering if consuming astaxanthin will turn your skin red, just like a flamingo. The short answer is no, taking the recommended dose of astaxanthin will not make your skin turn red. However, consuming very high amounts of carotenoid-rich foods can cause a condition called carotenosis, which presents as an orange discoloration of the skin, especially in palm and soles. It can also be associated with a decreased carotenoid metabolism and hyperlipidemia – a condition in which people have higher than usual lipids in the blood.  Luckily, the only adverse effect of carotenosis is embarrassment, which arises when friends and family notice that you blend in well with the produce section! 

So go ahead and embrace astaxanthin as part of your daily routine. Our Icelandic astaxanthin, produced with pure water and manufactured sustainably, offers a multitude of health benefits. It supports cardiovascular health, improves skin radiance, enhances muscle performance, and boosts immune function. Incorporating Algalif’s natural Icelandic astaxanthin into your lifestyle will provide you with a holistic approach to wellness, ensuring a healthier and more vibrant you. 

An Algalif Blog by Ingrid Lazo and Francesco Golin, Cultivation Specialist  

The benefits of astaxanthin and beta glucan for humans will be explored in future blogs – keep up to date by following us at www.algalif.com and www.nutramunity.com.

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