Beta-carotene is one of a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids provide approximately 50% of the vitamin A needed in the American diet. Beta-carotene can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be made in a laboratory.
Beta-carotene is used to decrease asthma symptoms caused by exercise; to prevent certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts, and age related macular degeneration (AMD); and to treat AIDS, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, epilepsy, headache, heartburn, high blood pressure, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, and skin disorders including psoriasis and vitiligo.
Beta-carotene is also in used in malnourished (underfed) women to reduce the chance of death and night blindness during pregnancy, as well as diarrhea and fever after giving birth.
Some people who sunburn easily, including those with an inherited disease called erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), use beta-carotene to reduce the risk of sunburn.
There are many authorities – including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the World Cancer Research Institute in association with the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer – that recommend getting beta-carotene and other antioxidants from food instead of supplements, at least until research finds out whether supplements offer the same benefits. Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily provides 6-8 mg of beta-carotene.
How does it work?
Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A, an essential nutrient. It has antioxidant activity, which helps to protect cells from damage.