Alternative Names: Pro-vitamin A.
Beta-carotene is a member of a class of compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids, in general, are responsible for the yellow/orange pigmentation of many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and apricots. As a precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene can be taken in high doses without the toxicity associated with vitamin A.
can be made synthetically, it can also be harvested naturally from carotene-rich plant material, such as the sea algae Dunaliella salina
. Isolated with beta-carotene are the carotenoids alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptocanthin, and lutein. Beta-carotene is a common ingredient in multi-vitamin, immune enhancing, as well as antioxidant
Why it is Recommended
There have been many reports in recent years telling of the benefits of beta-carotene
supplements. As an antioxidant
it has been studied for its ability to lower the risk for certain cancers, protect against cataracts
, enhance the immune system, and reduce the risk of heart disease. While these studies are not conclusive, many are very promising. Of course, as a precursor to vitamin A
, beta-carotene has all the benefits associated with vitamin A, without the risk of toxicity.
0.6mcg of beta-carotene
is equal to 1 IU of vitamin A
Counter-Indicators and Warnings
Recent studies have associated an increased risk of lung
cancer among smokers taking beta-carotene
. While these studies are somewhat inconclusive, caution should be taken by smokers when taking beta-carotene.