Beta-carotene – what it is, benefits and side effects!

Beta – carotene is very important for health because half of our body’s Vitamin A is obtained through the ingestion of this natural vitamin. For this reason it is known as Pro-Vitamin A, the other half is acquired through foods of animal origin.

What is beta carotene ?

Beta – carotene  is a type of carotenoid, which are natural pigments responsible for the vibrant colors of certain plants and their fruits and vegetables. Examples of carotenoids are the orange color of carrots, the yellow color of mangoes or the red color of persimmons.

When we eat these fruits, beta- carotene is converted into vitamin A , in the form of retinol, and acts as an antioxidant in cells, scavenging harmful free radicals.

Studies say that half of the vitamin A in the human body is obtained by ingesting beta- carotene . For this reason, it is called “pro vitamin A ”, being an essential component for the body to obtain the necessary volume of the vitamin.

Benefits of Beta Carotene :

Antioxidants like beta-carotene play crucial roles in the body’s fight against free radicals. There is a lot of evidence to support taking antioxidants in order to help achieve optimal wellness. Beta-carotene consumption has been associated with the following:

1. Cognitive function:

One study involved more than 4,000 men over a period of 18 years. It has linked long-term beta-carotene consumption to a slowing of cognitive decline.

However, no significant difference was found over a short-term period. There may have been other contributing factors in the long-term beta-carotene group.

2. Skin health:

Taking beta-carotene may reduce sensitivity to the sun for certain people who have the erythropoietic protoporphyria blood disorder. It may also have this effect for people with other photosensitive conditions.

Beta – carotene can also reduce the effect of phototoxic drugs. Other research has shown that it can prevent skin damage  and contribute to the maintenance of skin health and appearance. This is due to its antioxidant properties. However, studies are inconclusive and more research needs to be done.

3. Lung health:

High doses of beta-carotene (15-milligram supplements) can increase the likelihood of lung cancer for smokers. However, a recent study involving more than 2,700 people suggested that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids such as beta- carotene had a protective effect against lung cancer.

4. Cancer prevention:

According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants such as beta- carotene can reduce or prevent free radical damage. This type of damage has been linked to cancer.

However, many observational studies have shown mixed results. Also, in general, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables full of phytochemicals and antioxidants is recommended, rather than supplementing beta- carotene . This is particularly true for those who already have cancer.

Foods rich in beta- carotene:

Beta carotene is predominantly found in fruits and vegetables with a red, orange or yellow color. However, do not shy away from dark leafy greens or other green vegetables, as they contain a good amount of this antioxidant as well.

Some studies have shown that higher amounts of beta-carotene are found in cooked forms of fruits and vegetables compared to raw. Because beta-carotene converts to fat-soluble vitamin A, it’s important to consume this nutrient with a fat for better absorption.

The foods richest in beta-carotene include:

  • carrots ;
  • sweet potatoes;
  • Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach
  • romaine lettuce;
  • pumpkin  ;
  • Cantaloupe;
  • Red and yellow peppers;
  • apricots;
  • Peas;
  • broccoli ;

Beta carotene side effects :

Side effects of taking beta- carotene are divided into common, which do not require medical attention, or rare, which may disappear during treatment, but if they continue, they should be reported to the person’s doctor or caregiver.

Useful links: 

Common: Yellowing of parts of the skin such as palms, hands, soles or face. Also rare diarrhea, joint pain, dizziness, bleeding or bruising

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