Can green pigment restore brown pigment?
Writing this blog series has made me realise what a multicoloured world we live in. If you find this subject as fascinating as I do, then this website, Causes of Color, is well worth a read. And if you think human beings come in a weird and wonderful variety of tones, animals (and plants) leave us standing.
The predominant pigment in humans – and other mammals - is #melanin (the brown #pigment affected by #vitiligo). This is why variations in the colour of human #skin revolve mainly around the quantity, or lack, of brown pigment present.
This gives rise to an impressive range of different shades of skin but is as nothing compared to the mind-boggling palette of the animal kingdom, which ranges from transparent to drab, from subtle to vividly bright and even luminous.
Equally, most human beings have one fairly uniform colour to their whole skin (unless they have a particular skin disorder, like vitiligo or mosaicism) whilst most animals have multicoloured skin, scales, fur or feathers, often in fascinating patterns. And whereas human skin simply turns either pink or a deeper shade of brown (depending on the amount of melanin present) when exposed to sunlight, many animals change colour dramatically. This can be for a variety of reasons, like age, camouflage, mating, climate, or diet. For example, the reason flamingos are pink is because they eat shrimp that have, in turn, fed off microscopic algae that manufacture red and yellow carotenoids. Without these "second-hand" pigments in their diet, all flamingos (and shrimps) would be grey.
Like humans, their colouring can also be affected by pigmentary disorders,
resulting in either leucism, albinism or melanism and their markings can differ from the norm, like the amazing little kitty below.
What I didn't know until it popped up on my browser was that plants can also suffer from such disorders. Just like human leukoderma (loss of skin pigment) the absence of pigment in plants causes them to turn white like this strawberry and wherever membranes are thin - on petals and leaves, for example - albinism causes the plant to appear translucent like the one below.
Where plants are concerned, the pigment affected is not melanin, of course, but chlorophyll. Chlorophyll, as you will probably remember from your school-day biology lessons, is the green pigment responsible for the absorption of light to provide energy for photosynthesis. Not only is this pigment crucial for the plant's survival (which is why albinism is lethal to plants) but it is also known to have so many human health benefits that, whilst they are tried and tested anecdotally, some are not yet fully understood scientifically.
The thing I find particularly interesting about this, from a personal perspective anyway, is that one of the nutritional supplements I used to repigment my vitiligo (and still use every day to keep it at bay) is a green food which, of course, is packed with chlorophyll. I'm glad to say that eating extra-large quantities of greens doesn't turn a person green in the way that the shrimp turn flamingos pink! But, what does seem to happen is that the antioxidants and other nutrients in these chlorophyll-rich "superfoods" produces a healthy environment in the human body for normal melanin production to resume. I suppose what strikes me as satisfyingly apt is that it should be the pigment found in one kind of organism that is instrumental in restoring pigment to an entirely different species: it's almost like getting a transfusion from the plant world! How weird and wonderful is that?
So, to all those "pigment donor" veggies out there that selflessly lay down their lives to keep my skin and yours healthy, I say a sincere thank you.
My name is Caroline.