Carotenoids are organic pigments, both found in fruit and vegetables, responsible for their broad spectrum of colors, from bright yellow to dark red.
Their range consists in about 750 different molecules; their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make them good allies of human health.
Among the most studied, besides beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are between the most significant. The first one is known for its positive effects on preventing some eyes diseases, such as the macular degeneration which is typical of aging. The second one instead, is found in the eyes and it’s promoting their pigmentation.
None of them can be synthesized by the body, therefore optimal levels of carotenoids can be achieved either through the diet or food supplements.
Recent studies have focused on the advantages derived from combined use of lutein + zeaxanthin during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
It was found that, both of them are concentrated in the fetus and in the umbilical cord, representing more than 49% of carotenoids during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Some results support the positive effects of lutein and zeaxanthin, not only on the ocular development and health but, surprisingly, on the brain of the baby too.
Even, 60% of the carotenoids in the brain tissue in the pediatric age, is constituted by lutein, despite this represents 12 % only of carotenoids in the diet.
Moreover, the studies would prove that lutein and zeaxanthin might prevent the oxidative stress of womb, preventing any complications onset during pregnancy, for examples preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, premature births and other issues.
These two carotenoids significantly influence the nutritional content of breast milk too.
At birth, babies show the same levels of lutein but, after one-month-breast feeding, they have a higher percentage of carotenoids compared to those ones fed with milk formulas.
Unlike formula milk, breast-milk contains lutein naturally.
To conclude, it would be extremely important to enrich milk formulas with carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin.
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