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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Dietary Supplements >>  Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene

Beta carotene belongs to the group of carotenoids that are natural plant pigments found in highly pigmented fruits and vegetable. These are fat soluble compounds found mainly in green plants, sweet potato, carrots, spinach, apricot and green peppers. Beta carotene along with alfa and gamma carotene are considered provitamins as they can be converted to active vitamin A in the body.
Beta carotene has antioxidant properties and commercially available beta carotene is derived synthetically from palm oil extracts, an algae or fungi.
Retinol that is converted from beta carotene is essential for vision, and is later converted to retinoic acid that is used for process involving growth and cell differentiation.

Health and beta carotene

  1. Over the counter available synthetic beta carotene gives photoprotection for Erythropoietic protoporphyria that is a rare inherited genetic disorder.
  2. Unclear scientific evidence ensures that consumption of beta carotene along with other carotenoids can prevent vitamin A deficiency, is helpful in delaying age related macular degeneration and cataract prevention.
    It may also lower the incidence of adverse effects of chemotherapy toxicity, boost the immune system, protects the skin against irradiation and is beneficial for individuals sensitive to sun exposure.
  3. Supplementation of beta carotene along with vitamin E is beneficial for cystic fibrosis patients.
  4. In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, high amounts of beta carotene supplementations decrease the prevalence of bronchitis and shortness of breath.
  5. Beta carotene supplementation might slow the progression of osteoarthritis but may not be useful in preventing it.
  6. Beta carotene when taken before, during and after pregnancy may reduce pregnancy related mortality, low birth weight babies, night blindness, diarrhea and fever.

Side effects of beta carotene

  1. Beta carotene from foods doesn’t seem to have side effects if taken in recommended amounts; however supplemental beta carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer, prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage and mortality in individuals with history of high level exposure to asbestos.
  2. Cardiovascular mortality may be increased in smoking individuals who are on beta carotene supplementation.
  3. Alcohol consumption when combined with beta carotene consumption may increase liver toxicity and promote cancer.
  4. Although smoking reduces the body beta carotene and other carotenoids levels, supplemental beta carotene is not recommended for smokers as it is associated with higher risk of lung and prostate cancer in them.
  5. Beta carotene supplementations may decrease vitamin E concentration in tissues.
  6. It is always advisable to include beta carotene from the natural source that is fruits and vegetables in the diet rather than opting for beta carotene supplementations. If on supplementations due to certain condition, then discuss the dosage with a health care professional and also inform him about the drugs or medications you are on before you start the therapy.
Submitted on January 16, 2014