Beta-Carotene

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What is it?

Beta-carotene belongs to a group of colored pigments called carotenoids. It’s converted to vitamin A in the body and found in many fruits and vegetables.

Beta-carotene and other red, orange, and yellow pigments called carotenoids are considered antioxidants. They provide about 50% of the vitamin A needed in the diet. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects help to protect cells from damage.

People use beta-carotene for an inherited disorder marked by sensitivity to light. It is also used to prevent certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts, aging skin, and many other purposes, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.

Many global health authorities recommend getting beta-carotene and other antioxidants from food instead of supplements.

It is effective?
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Effective for …

  • An inherited disorder marked by sensitivity to light (erythropoietic protoporphyria or EPP).” Taking beta-carotene by mouth can reduce sensitivity to the sun in people with this condition.

Possibly Effective for …

  • Breast cancer. Eating more beta-carotene in the diet is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer in high risk, pre-menopausal females. In people with breast cancer, eating more beta-carotene in the diet is linked to an increased chance of survival.
  • Complications after childbirth. Taking beta-carotene by mouth before, during, and after pregnancy might decrease the risk of diarrhea and fever after childbirth. It also seems to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related death.
  • Sunburn. Taking beta-carotene by mouth might decrease sunburn risk in people sensitive to the sun.

Possibly Ineffective for …

  • Ballooning of a blood vessel wall (aneurysm). Taking beta-carotene by mouth doesn’t reduce the risk for an aneurysm in the stomach in male smokers.
  • Alzheimer disease. Eating a diet high in beta-carotene does not seem to reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease.
  • Cataracts. Taking beta-carotene by mouth, alone or together with vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, doesn’t seem to reduce the risk or progression of cataracts.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not improve lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.
  • Diabetes. Taking beta-carotene by mouth doesn’t reduce the risk of developing diabetes or diabetes-related complications.
  • Non-cancerous moles (dysplastic nevi). Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not reduce the development of new moles.
  • Cancer of the esophagus. Taking beta-carotene by mouth doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.
  • Liver cancer. Taking beta-carotene by mouth, alone or with vitamin E, does not prevent liver cancer in male smokers.
  • Liver disease. Taking beta-carotene by mouth, alone or with vitamin E, does not prevent death due to liver disease in male smokers.
  • Death from any cause. Taking beta-carotene by mouth doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of death from any cause.
  • Stroke. Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not reduce the risk of stroke in male smokers. It might actually increase the risk in people who drink alcohol.

Probably Ineffective for …

  • Cancer. Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not reduce the risk for most types of cancer.
  • Heart disease. Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not reduce the risk for heart disease. It might actually increase the risk for heart disease-related death in some people.
  • Non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma). Taking beta-carotene by mouth does not decrease the risk of these growths. In people who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, taking beta-carotene supplements might actually increase the risk for these growths.
  • Lung cancer. Taking beta-carotene supplements by mouth seems to increase the risk of lung cancer in some people. Beta-carotene from food does not seem to have this effect.
  • Prostate cancer. Taking beta-carotene supplements by mouth does not prevent prostate cancer in most people. In fact, taking beta-carotene supplements might actually increase the risk of prostate cancer in some people.

There is interest in using beta-carotene for a number of other purposes, but there isn’t enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Is there concern for the safety of its use?
When taken by mouth: Beta-carotene is likely safe when taken in appropriate amounts for certain medical conditions. But beta-carotene supplements are not recommended for general use.

Beta-carotene supplements are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in high doses, especially when taken long-term. High doses of beta-carotene can turn skin yellow or orange. Taking high doses of beta-carotene supplements might also increase the chance of death from all causes, increase the risk of certain cancers, and possibly cause other serious side effects. Beta-carotene from food does not seem to have these effects.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Beta-carotene is likely safe when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts. But there isn’t enough reliable information to know if high doses of beta-carotene are safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Beta-carotene is likely safe when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts.

History of asbestos exposure: In people who have been exposed to asbestos, beta-carotene supplements might increase the risk of cancer. Don’t take beta-carotene supplements if you have been exposed to asbestos.

Smoking: In people who smoke, beta-carotene supplements might increase the risk of colon, lung, and prostate cancer. Don’t take beta-carotene supplements if you smoke.

Are there any drug interactions?

Niacin

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Niacin can increase good cholesterol levels. Taking beta-carotene along with vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium can decrease the effects of niacin on good cholesterol levels. It is not known if beta-carotene alone decreases the effects of niacin on good cholesterol levels.

Are there any interactions with herbs and supplements?
Lutein: Taking beta-carotene supplements might lower levels of lutein in the body.

Are there any interactions with food?
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and eating products that contain olestra, a fat substitute, can reduce beta-carotene levels in the body.

What dose is used?
Beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily provides 6-8 mg of beta-carotene. Many global health authorities recommend getting beta-carotene and other antioxidants from food instead of supplements. Regularly taking beta-carotene supplements for general use isn’t recommended. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what dose might be best for a specific condition.

By what other names is the product known?
A-Beta-Carotene, A-Bêta-Carotène, Beta Carotene, Bêta-Carotène, Bêta-Carotène Tout Trans, Beta-Caroteno, Carotenes, Carotènes, Carotenoids, Caroténoïdes, Caroténoïdes Mélangés, Mixed Carotenoids, Provitamin A, Provitamine A.

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