- Beta-carotene is a Carotenoid, one of a group of plant pigments known to have antioxidant and other effects.
- Beta-Carotene is quickly converted into vitamin A inside the body. Beta-carotene is often thought of as a form of vitamin A itself. Having normal levels of vitamin A is key for good vision, strong immunity, and general health.
- The American Heart Association suggests that you get beta-carotene (and other Antioxidants) from food rather than supplements. Good food sources of beta-carotene include :
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Spinach and kale
- Fruits like cantaloupe and apricots
- Beta-carotene levels are highest in fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen and canned varieties generally have less.
- Beta-carotene has become popular in part because it’s an Antioxidant ,a substance that may protect cells from damage. A number of studies show that people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals have a lower risk of some cancers and heart disease.
- Beta-carotene supplements may help people with specific health problems. Supplements might be used in someone with a clear Vitamin A deficiency. They also might help those with the genetic condition erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP). Both conditions are rare.
- It is also used as a colorant and skin conditioner
- Taken at the amounts found in foods, beta-carotene has few side effects. At high levels, such as what is found in carrot juice, it may turn the skin yellowish or orange. This is temporary and harmless.
- People who smoke or who have been exposed to asbestos should not use beta-carotene supplements.
- Even low doses have been linked with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and death in these two groups of people. Excessive alcohol use combined with beta-carotene supplements may raise the risk of liver disease and cancer.
- In high doses, vitamin A, and presumably beta-carotene, can be toxic to the liver.
If you take any regular medications, ask your doctor if beta-carotene supplements are safe. They may interact with cholesterol drugs and other medicines.