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DSM in Animal Nutrition & Health

A brief history of bright science

A brief history of the development of carotenoids1  
Brief history_Large
1831 Wackenroder isolates the orange-yellow pigment in carrots and coins the term 'carotene'.

Zeise provides a more detailed description of carotene.

1866 Carotene is classified as a hydrocarbon by Arnaud and workers.

Arnaud describes the widespread presence of carotenes in plants. 


Willstatter and Mieg establish the molecular formula for carotene, a molecule consisting of 40 carbon and 56 hydrogen atoms. 

1914 Palmer and Eckles discover the presence of carotene and xanthophylls in human blood plasma.

Steenbock (University of Wisconsin) suggests a relationship between yellow plant pigments (ß-carotene ) and vitamin A.


Moore demonstrates that ß-carotene is converted into the colorless form of vitamin A in the liver. 


Karrer and collaborators (Switzerland) determine the structures of ß-carotene and vitamin A. 


Wagner and coworkers suggest that the conversion of ß-carotene into vitamin A occurs within the intestinal mucosa. 


Isler and colleagues develop a method for synthesizing ß-carotene. 


Crystalline synthetic ß-carotene is introduced commercially by Roche as a food colorant. 


Steinegger and Zanetti create the first ‘Roche Yolk Color Fan’.


Synthetic ß-apo-8’-carotenal is introduced by Roche for the coloring of foods and feedstuffs.


Synthetic ß-apo-8’-carotenoic acid is introduced by Roche for the coloring of foods and feedstuffs.


Synthetic canthaxanthin is introduced by Roche for the coloring of foods and feedstuffs.


ß-carotene is found acceptable for use in foods by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. 


Synthetic citraxanthin is introduced by BASF as a feed additive.


Specifications for ß-carotene use in foods are established by the U.S. Food Chemicals Codex. 


Carotene is established as 'GRAS', which means that the ingredient is 'Generally Recognized As Safe' and can be used as a dietary supplement or in food fortification. 


ß-carotene /carotenoids are recognized as important factors (independent of their provitamin A activity) in potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers. R. Doll and R. Peto: “Can Dietary ß-carotene Materially Reduce Human Cancer Rates?” (in: Nature, 1981; 290: 201-208) R. Shekelle et al: “Dietary Vitamin A and Risk of Cancer in the Western Electric Study” (in: Lancet, 1981: 1185-1190) “Diet, Nutrition and Cancer” (1982): Review of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences showing that intake of carotenoid-rich foods is associated with reduced risk of certain cancers. 


Krinsky and Deneke show the interaction between oxygen and oxyradicals using carotenoids. 


The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) launches large-scale clinical intervention trials using ß-carotene supplements alone and in combination with other nutrients. 


ß-carotene is demonstrated to be an effective antioxidant in vitro. 


Due to the large number of epidemiological studies that demonstrate the potential reduction of cancer incidence with increased consumption of dietary ß-carotene , the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) issues dietary guidelines advising Americans to include a variety of vegetables and fruits in their daily diet. 


Availability of results from several large-scale clinical intervention trials using ß-carotene alone or in various other combinations. 


Evidence indicates that ß-carotene acts synergistically with vitamins C and E. 


The Women´s Health Study shows no increased risk of lung cancer for woman receiving 50 mg ß-carotene on alternate days. 


Results from the French SU.VI.MAX study indicate that a combination of antioxidant vitamins (C, E and ß-carotene) and minerals lowers total cancer incidence and all-cause mortality in men. 


Canthaxanthin receives EU approval as a zootechnical feed additive. 


1 Source: Vitamin Basics: The Facts about vitamins in nutrition, ©1994, 1997, 2007 DSM Nutritional Products Ltd. Updated and expanded 2014.