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Beta-carotene

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Updated October 23, 2013

What is Beta-Carotene?

Beta-carotene is one of a group of natural chemicals known as carotenes or carotenoids. Carotenes are responsible for the orange color of many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.

Beta carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A. It is an antioxidant, like vitamins E and C.

Food Sources

Good 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.

Beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient, although vitamin A is.

Uses For Beta-Carotene

  • Prevention against cancer and heart disease
  • To slow the progression of cataracts
  • To prevent macular degeneration
  • To boost immunity
  • To protect the skin against sunburn
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Intermittent claudication

Safety

Beta carotene is relatively safe. There is some concern that high doses of beta-carotene can cause a slight increase in the risk of heart disease and cancer, especially in people who smoke cigarettes and who consume excessive alcohol.

Other side effects include diarrhea and a yellowish tinge to the skin, both of which subside then the intake of beta-carotene is lowered.

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