Your Guide to Beta-Carotene and Its Benefits

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant and carotenoid, and it’s also the orange pigment found in carrots, among other foods. It also converts to vitamin A and is essential for optimal health. Get to know the benefits of beta-carotene with this guide.

7 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

Beta Carotene Benefits - Mens Health - 1MD

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that is found in plants, fruits, and vegetables. It is a pigment that gives these plants their bright orange color, and when consumed, is converted into vitamin A. 

Vitamin A is essential to overall health and has been linked to the prevention of serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and several inflammatory-related conditions. 

Beta-carotene, along with other carotenoids, is responsible for 50 percent of the vitamin A needed and must be consumed through diet. 

Health Benefits of Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is an important and powerful antioxidant that your body needs. This is converted into vitamin A in the body, which is another essential antioxidant your body needs. Vitamin A can be directly obtained through certain foods, but it is most often consumed as beta-carotene first. Once converted, vitamin A works throughout your body to provide a host of benefits. 

Cardiovascular Health

Carotenoids like beta-carotene are powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents. By reducing inflammation and preventing free radical damage, beta-carotene can protect heart health by preventing arterial walls from becoming blocked. 

Studies show that beta-carotene is an effective supplement for preventing cardiovascular disease and can provide additional protection for those who smoke. While it will not prevent smoking from causing damage, it can help repair some of the destruction caused to the heart from tobacco. 

Reduced Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of beta-carotene make it an effective agent for preventing common inflammatory conditions like cystitis and prostatitis. 

Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) can be easily caused by untreated urinary tract infections. As the infection and inflammation move to these organs, damage can occur. Prostatitis can also lead to an enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition known to cause painful urination and incontinence. 

By reducing inflammation, beta-carotene can prevent damage to the bladder and prostate. That being said, treatment will be needed to treat the infection separately. 

Diabetes Management

Studies have found that diets containing more beta-carotene are linked to a reduced risk for developing type-2 diabetes. Diabetes also increases the risk of the dangerous oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. 

The oxidation of LDL occurs when free radicals interact with LDL molecules producing toxic. Beta-carotene helps by reducing levels of LDL cholesterol available in the blood and also scavenges free radicals, thereby limiting the opportunity for LDL oxidation. 

Cancer Prevention

Oxidative damage caused by free radicals is associated with the development of certain types of cancer. Beta-carotene, along with other carotenoids, is a powerful antioxidant agent that can scavenge free radicals, preventing them from damaging tissues and cells. 

When combined with other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene has been identified as potentially effective in reducing the risk for certain cancers. 

Prostate Health

Several randomized trials have found that beta-carotene is associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer. Some studies also found that beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk for lung cancer in smokers, but for non-smokers, it is considered a beneficial supplement. 

Taking a daily beta-carotene supplement can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 32 percent as a result of this powerful carotenoid’s ability to protect against oxidative damage. 

Kidney Health

Vitamin A and beta-carotene have been found to effectively promote the regeneration of epithelial cells in the kidney that have been damaged by disease. So long as the amounts do not exceed what is recommended by your doctor, beta-carotene can create enough vitamin A in the body to effectively heal damaged kidney tissues.

Urinary Tract Health

Studies have found that vitamin A deficiency has been linked to increased risk for urinary tract infections. Vitamin A helps to protect the cells of the lower urinary tract and can prevent scarring from inflammation and infection. 

Beta-carotene, as a precursor to vitamin A, can promote urinary tract health by maintaining the structural integrity of the cells and tissues of the urinary tract.

Bone Health

Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A are essential for bone health, especially as you age. Bone density weakens with age, and reduced levels of vitamin A can increase the risk for fracture. 

Overly high levels of vitamin A can also increase the risk for fracture, so maintaining the optimal levels is necessary. Beta-carotene supplements can help enhance vitamin A levels in the body for those that are lacking this vitamin in their diet. 

Dosage Information and Potential Side Effects

Beta-carotene is considered safe when taken in the recommended amounts and when prescribed for certain conditions. It is not advised to take beta-carotene supplements for general use. When taken in high doses or over an extended period of time, beta-carotene can cause your skin to turn orange or yellow. 

At recommended doses for certain conditions, beta-carotene can provide essential benefits, but when taken as a general supplement, the risk for disease and certain cancers can increase. 

Beta-carotene should not be taken if you smoke as it can increase the risk of lung, colon, and prostate cancer. You should also avoid beta-carotene or consult your doctor if you have had an angioplasty because it can interfere with the healing process from this procedure. 

Beta-carotene has also been found to have reactions with statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), decreasing their effectiveness. This supplement can also reduce the beneficial effects of niacin, which is often taken to increase good (HDL) cholesterol. 

Too much vitamin A can be dangerous for your health, and this can be caused by consuming a high amount of beta-carotene. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in the body for use, and too much can be toxic. Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include headaches, nausea, pain, and death. 

It is important to monitor vitamin A consumption as well as beta-carotene to ensure toxic levels in the body are not reached. 

The Bottom Line

Carotenoids like beta-carotene are powerful and beneficial antioxidants that can strengthen your immune system and boost overall health. Beta-carotene can be dangerous if taken at doses higher than recommended, so speak with your doctor before starting any supplements. 

Because beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, it is important to also consider how much vitamin A you are already getting through diet too.

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