The Benefits of Beta-Carotene

still life of squash, carrots, and other vegetables and fruits
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Beta-carotene is a compound found naturally in a number of foods and available in dietary supplement form. It's classified as a carotenoid, which is a type of pigment that helps give many fruits and vegetables their color. It's said that increasing your intake of beta-carotene can protect against a host of health issues.

Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A

When consumed, beta-carotene is converted by your body into vitamin A (a nutrient involved in processes such as forming and maintaining healthy skin and teeth as well as in promoting good vision). It can also act as an antioxidant.

Beta-carotene is the most common type of pro-vitamin A, which is the form of vitamin A sourced from plant-based foods. Preformed vitamin A, meanwhile, is found in animal products like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods.


Beta-carotene is said to aid in the treatment or prevention of the following health problems:

In addition, beta-carotene is purported to fight cancer, increase fertility, and boost the immune system.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Taking a combination of beta-carotene, vitamin Cvitamin E, and zinc may have long-term effects against age-related macular degeneration, suggests a follow-up study published in the journal Ophthalmology in 2013.

Prior to this study, 4,757 older adults participated in a clinical trial in which they received either a placebo or a supplement containing beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and zinc. At the end of the trial's seven-year study period, researchers found that participants at high risk of developing advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration lowered their risk by about 25 percent when treated with the beta-carotene-based supplement.

In the follow-up study (conducted five years after the clinical trial ended), researchers focused on 3,549 participants from that clinical trial. They found that the beta-carotene-based supplement's beneficial effects had persisted and that study members treated with the supplement had a reduced risk of vision loss.

More Health Benefits

So far, studies on other potential health benefits of beta-carotene have yielded mixed results. For example, some research has shown that following a diet high in beta-carotene may help curb the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women at high risk for the disease, while other research indicates that beta-carotene may fail to be effective against such conditions as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke.

There's also some evidence that beta-carotene may help prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks, protect against bronchitis in smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. However, further research is needed before beta-carotene supplements can be recommended for use against any of these conditions.

Food Sources

Top sources of beta-carotene include dark green and orange-yellow vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, apricots, and green peppers.

Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily will more than meet your daily needs for vitamin A, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


The NIH caution against taking beta-carotene supplements for general health. However, they also state that beta-carotene is likely safe when taken "in appropriate amounts for certain specific medical conditions." To determine whether beta-carotene is right for you, make sure to consult your physician prior to taking beta-carotene supplements.

In addition, there's some concern that taking large amounts of a multivitamin plus a separate beta-carotene supplement could increase the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

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Article Sources
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