Beta Carotene: Facts

Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables. The name beta-carotene comes from the Greek word “beta” and Latin “carota” (carrot). It is the yellow/orange pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colors. The scientist H. Wachenroder crystallized beta carotene from carrot roots in 1831, and came up with the name “carotene”.

The human body converts it into vitamin A (retinol). This is a precursor of vitamin A and we need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision.

Vitamin A can be sourced from the food we eat through beta carotene, for example, or in supplement form. The advantage of dietary beta carotene is that the body only coverts as much as it needs. Excess vitamin A is toxic and toxic vitamin A levels can occur if you consume too many supplements.

Fast Facts

  • Beta carotene is a red/orange pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • It is converted into vitamin A, an essential vitamin.
  • It is a carotenoid and an antioxidant.
  • Might help older people retain their lung strength as they age.

Benefits and uses

Like all carotenoids, is an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits the oxidations of other molecules; it protects the body from free radicals. Free radicals damage cells through oxidation, eventually the damage caused by free radicals can cause several chronic illnesses.

Men who have been taking the supplements for 15 or more  years are considerably less likely to experience cognitive decline than others males. Oxidative stress is thought to be  a key factor in cognitive decline, researchers and studies have shown that antioxidant supplements may help prevent the deterioration of cognition.

The BMJ published a report in march 2006 which showed that high blood levels compensate for some of the damage to the lungs caused by oxygen free radicals. They measured the FEVI of 535 participants and measured their blood levels. FEVI measures how much air you breathe out in one go. They found that those with high beta carotene levels had much slower decline in FEVI measures.

Side Effects

A French  study involving adult females published in the journal of the national cancer institute (September 2005 issue) found that smokers with high levels had a higher risk of lungs cancer than other smokers. They also found that non-smokers with high intake had a lower risk of lung cancer. They found out that the risk of lungs cancer over a ten years period was

  • 8 Per 10,000 women for non-smokers with low beta carotene intake.
  • 174 per 10,000 women for smokers with low beta carotene intake. Further research has suggested that the high intake among smokers is nearly always due to supplement and not food intake.

Food Sources

Apricots, Asparagu, Broccoli, Carrots, Chines cabbage, Chives, Dandelion leaves, Grapefruits, Herbs and Spices-Chilli, others induces powder, Oregano, paprika, Ketchup, Onions, peas, Sweet potatoes e.t.c.

If you follow a healthy diet rich in beta-carotene, you do not need supplement. As mentioned above, supplement can lead to undesirable excesses in beta carotene levels, this cannot occur if your source is from the food you eat.

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