Health Benefits of Beta Carotene

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Beta carotene, deriving its name from the Latin word for ‘carrot’, is a powerful antioxidant. It is a provitamin A carotenoid or a nutrient that the body easily converts into vitamin A for us. Beta carotene can be sourced from vibrant, colourful red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (and some leafy greens!).

Beta carotene is known to assist in boosting our immune systems, neutralising harmful free radicals in our bodies and reducing oxidative stress thus ‘defending’ against diseases of lifestyle, thus supporting optimized health span. Vitamin A is essential for optimal eye health, impacting the key component (rhodopsin), a light sensitive protein that responds to light entering the eye and supports the normal eye function. Studies have shown that supplementing dietary intake with vitamins C, E, zinc and copper with beta-carotene help to slow down the rate of vision loss in people with age-related macular degeneration.

Dietary carotenoids act as antioxidants that can prevent or reverse inflammation. An increased intake of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in carotenoids, has been associated with a reduction in several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, low blood levels of carotenoids have been associated with increased risk of atherosclerotic vascular events. Reducing these risk factors would help to improve health outcomes and improve health span.

A diet rich in antioxidants like beta carotene may lower cancer rates. People with higher levels of beta carotene in their blood tend to have reduced rates of lung, skin, colon, breast and prostate cancers. Beta carotene has been shown to help protect lung health, especially when combined with other antioxidants.

Beta carotene positively contributes to skin health. Its antioxidant effects enhance the skins defences against UV radiation maintaining skin health and appearance. Researchers note, though, that the sun protection dietary beta carotene provides is considerably lower than using a topical sunscreen.

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and the body stores excess amounts primarily in the liver. Because vitamin A sticks around to be used later, there’s a risk to getting too much of it. These levels can accumulate so do be careful to not ‘overdo’ the vitamin A consumption, especially with the use of supplementation. Remember, obtaining beta carotene from natural food sources is generally safer and more beneficial than relying on supplements. Rather eat foods rich vitamin A like carrots, butter nut and sweet potato. A carrot salad, carrot & ginger juice, roast butternut in the oven with thyme and olive oil or sweet potato mash are all great ways to up your vitamin A intake.

Blaner WS. 2020. Vitamin A and Provitamin A Carotenoids. Present knowledge in Nutrition.11th eds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Wiley- Blackwell; 2020:73-91.
Carazo A et al., 2021. Vitamin A Update: Forms, sources, kinetics, detection, function, deficiency, therapeutic use and toxicity. Nutrients 2021;13:1703.

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