Beta-Carotene

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Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble compound called a carotenoid. It is found in green leafy and orange vegetables, like carrots, in some fruit, and in some tree nuts. Beta-carotene is considered to be an antioxidant. The American Heart Association recommends consuming beta-carotene and other antioxidants via a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains rather than through supplements until more information is known from clinical trials. Beta-carotene is used orally for reducing sunburn and photosensitivity. Beta-carotene is also used orally for decreasing symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exercise-induced asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, reducing the risk for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration.

Beta-carotene is used to improve cognitive performance. In addition, beta-carotene is used to treat:

  • Aging skin
  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism 
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Hypertension
  • Infertility
  • Oral leukoplakia
  • Mucositis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Stroke
  • Schizophrenia
  • Vitiligo

Some people take beta-carotene to prevent osteoarthritis and to improve muscle strength. It is also used for complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, such as mortality, night-blindness, diarrhea, and fever. Beta-carotene is used to improve lung function in patients with cystic fibrosis and to prevent the development of asthma, toxicity to chemotherapy, new moles, mortality due to chronic liver disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and abdominal aneurysms.

Also known as:  A-Beta-Carotene, A-Bêta-Carotène, Bêta-Carotène, Bêta-Carotène Tout Trans, Beta-Caroteno, Carotenes, Carotènes, Carotenoids, Caroténoïdes, Caroténoïdes Mélangés, Mixed Carotenoids, Provitamin A, Provitamine A

Diseases and Conditions

It is thought that people who consume a diet rich in beta-carotene may have a decreased risk of heart disease or cancer and Sporadic ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease). Some research available indicates that smokers and those who have been exposed to asbestos may have an increased risk of lung cancer when taking beta-carotene supplements. Other conditions for which beta-carotene has been taken include:

  • Reducing sunburn and photosensitivity
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cataracts
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cognitive performance
  • Aging skin
  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Hypertension
  • Infertility
  • Oral leukoplakia
  • Mucositis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Schizophrenia
  • Vitiligo
  • Preventing osteoarthritis
  • Improving muscle strength
  • Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, such as mortality, night-blindness, diarrhea, and fever
  • Lung function in patients with cystic fibrosis
  • Preventing the development of asthma, toxicity to chemotherapy, new moles, mortality due to chronic liver disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and abdominal aneurysms

Safety

Beta-carotene is likely safe for adults in children when taken orally and appropriately for certain medical conditions under the supervision of a physician. However, it is not recommended for the general population to consume this supplement. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may take beta-carotene safely in the appropriate amounts and under the supervision of a doctor. High doses of beta-carotene can do more harm than good. These high dosages can increase the risk of death from all causes, increase the risk for certain cancers, and other adverse side effects.

People who smoke and who are exposed to asbestos must not consume beta-carotene as it can increase the risk of lung, prostate, and colon cancer. Individuals who have undergone angioplasty should not consume beta-carotene because it can inhibit the healing process. Consuming high amounts of beta-carotene may have side effects including orange or yellow skin pigmentation, belching, decrease in visual acuity, and increased risk of the common cold.

Medication Interactions

Taking Beta-Carotene with selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E can decrease the effectiveness of statins that lower cholesterol. These drugs include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)

The combination can also decrease the beneficial effects of niacin, which can increase the good cholesterol.

Other possible medication interactions include:

  • Cholestyramine
  • Colestipol
  • Orlistat
  • Mineral Oil

Supplement and Food Interactions

Consuming alcohol at high levels can lower serum concetrations of carotenoids like beta-carotene. Additionally, the fat substitute Olestra reduces serum beta-carotene concentrations in healthy people by 27% and might interfere with supplemental beta-carotene activity.

Dosage

The correct dosage of any supplement requires a comprehensive analysis of many factors including your age, sex, health conditions, DNA, and lifestyle.

Five servings of fruit and vegetables per day contains 6-8 mg of beta-carotene. The following dosages have been used for various conditions:

  • For age-related macular degeneration (AMD), 15 mg of beta-carotene is taken daily for up to 6 1/2 years.
  • For aging skin, people have taken 30 mg of beta-carotene daily for a period of 90 days.
  • For enhanced cognition, 50 mg of beta-carotene has been taken on different days.
  • For erthropoietic protoporphyria, 180 mg of beta-carotene has been taken at a dose of 180 mg daily, but can be taken up to a dose of 300 mg per day.
  • For asthma triggered by exercise, 64 mg of beta-carotene has been taken daily for one week.
  • For gastric cancer, 30 mg of beta-carotene, or 15 mg of beta-carotene taken with vitamin E and selenium has been used.
  • For HIV/AIDS, 180 mg of beta-carotene taken daily for four weeks is typically taken.
  • For oral leukoplakia, 60-360 mg of beta-carotene has been taken daily for up to 18 months.
  • For polymorphous light eruption, 50-100 mg of beta-carotene has been taken on the first day of beginning a regimen, and reduced to 25 mg per day for four years.
  • Synthetic beta-carotene at a dose of 42 mg per week has been used for post-partum issues and pregnancy-related issues.

Foods

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that is found in fruits and vegetables. It is present in high levels in orange, yellow, and green leafy vegetables, including:

  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe

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References

  1. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2737
  2. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/betacarotene
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/999.html

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