Beta carotene: What are the uses and benefits?

Carrots and other colourful vegetables contain beta carotene, a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits.

The name beta carotene is derived from the Greek words “beta” and “carota” (carrot). The pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their vibrant colours is yellow/orange. In 1831, H. Wachenroder crystallised beta carotene from carrot roots and coined the term “carotene.”

We’ll go over what beta carotene is, what it does in the body, and what foods it can be found in in this post. We’ll also cover any risks that come with it.

Important information to know about beta carotene

Here are some important factors to understand about beta carotene. The main article contains more information and details.

  • Many fresh fruits and vegetables contain beta carotene, a red/orange pigment.
  • Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A, an essential vitamin
  • High doses of vitamin A are hazardous.
  • Beta carotene is an antioxidant and a carotenoid.
  • Onions, carrots, peas, spinach, and squash are all high in vitamin A.
  • According to one study, smokers who consume a lot of beta carotene have a higher risk of lung cancer.
  • According to some studies, beta carotene may help to halt cognitive deterioration.
  • Certain medicines, such as statins and mineral oil, interact with beta carotene supplementation.
  • Beta carotene may aid in the preservation of lung strength in the elderly.

Definition

Carrots
Beta-carotene is abundant in carrots.

Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which the human body turns into vitamin A (retinol). Vitamin A is required for healthy skin and mucous membranes, a strong immune system, and clear vision.

Vitamin A is a necessary nutrient, while beta carotene is not. C40H56 is the chemical formula for beta carotene, which was discovered in 1907.

Vitamin A can be obtained through the foods we eat, such as beta carotene, or via supplements. Dietary beta carotene has the advantage of only converting as much as the body requires.

Vitamin A in excess is harmful. When you take too many supplements, your vitamin A levels can become toxic.

Benefits and uses

Beta carotene is beneficial to human health in a variety of ways. We’ve included several instances below:

Beta carotene is an antioxidant

All carotenoids, including beta carotene, are antioxidants. An antioxidant is a chemical that prevents other molecules from oxidising, therefore protecting the body from free radicals.

Free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells. Free radical damage can eventually lead to a variety of chronic disorders.

Antioxidants in the diet have been demonstrated in several studies to benefit people’s immune systems, guard against free radicals, and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

According to several research, people who eat at least four servings of beta carotene-rich fruits and/or vegetables each day had a lower risk of cancer and heart disease.

Beta carotene may help to slow down the ageing process of the brain

Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that men who have used beta carotene pills for 15 years or more have a lower risk of cognitive decline than other men, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine (November 2007 issue).

According to the experts, oxidative stress is regarded to be a crucial role in cognitive deterioration. Antioxidant supplements have been found in studies to help prevent cognitive decline.

Their study, which included 4,052 males, compared those who took beta carotene pills to those who were given a placebo for an average of 18 years. They observed no difference in the risk of cognitive deterioration between the two groups of men in the near term, but beta carotene supplementation made a substantial effect in the long run.

Other factors may have contributed to the men in the beta carotene group’s slower deterioration in cognitive abilities, according to the researchers.

As people get older, beta carotene helps to maintain their lungs healthy

High blood beta carotene levels compensate for part of the damage to the lungs caused by oxygen free radicals, according to a paper published in the BMJ in March 2006.

They measured the FEV1 of 535 participants and measured their beta carotene blood levels. FEV1 is a measurement of how much air you can exhale in a single breath. The researchers discovered that people with high beta carotene levels had a much slower decline in FEV1 measurements.

Food rich in beta carotene

A well-balanced and diversified diet can meet a person’s beta carotene needs.

The following foods are rich in beta carotene:

  • Apricots
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Chives
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Grapefruit
  • Herbs and spices – chilli powder, oregano, paprika, parsley
  • Kale
  • Ketchup
  • Many margarines
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes.

You won’t need supplements if you eat a healthy, beta-carotene-rich diet. Supplements, as previously noted, can cause unwanted beta carotene excesses; however, this cannot happen if you get your beta carotene from food.

Side effects

Smokers with high beta carotene levels had a higher risk of lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers than other smokers, according to a French study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (September 2005 edition). They also discovered that nonsmokers who consumed a lot of beta carotene had a decreased risk of lung cancer.

Over a ten-year period, they discovered that the risk of lung cancer was:

  • 181.8 per 10,000 women for non-smokers with low beta carotene intake
  • 81.7 per 10,000 women for non-smokers with high beta carotene intake
  • 174 per 10,000 women for smokers with low beta carotene intake
  • 368.3 per 10,000 women for smokers with high beta carotene intake.

According to another study, smokers’ excessive intake is almost usually related to supplements rather than food consumption.

Beta carotene drug interactions

A drug interaction occurs when a chemical alters the way a medication works, either by reducing its effectiveness, increasing its potency, or changing what it is designed to do.

Beta carotene supplements may interact with the following medications:

  • Statins – If the patient is taking beta carotene with selenium and vitamins E and C, the effectiveness of simvastatin (Zocor) and niacin may be reduced.
  • Some cholesterol-lowering drugs – Cholestyramine and colestipol can reduce dietary beta carotene levels in the blood by thirty to forty percent.
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli) – This is a weight-loss supplement. It can reduce beta carotene absorption by up to 30%, resulting in reduced blood beta carotene levels. Those on orlistat who want to take a multivitamin should do so at least two hours before taking their prescription.
  • Mineral oil – Beta carotene levels in the blood can be reduced when used to treat constipation.

Long-term alcohol usage interacts with beta carotene, increasing the risk of liver disease.

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