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 prevent certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts, osteoarthritis, and age related macular degeneration (AMD). It is also used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, aging skin, AIDS, alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headache, heartburn, a bacterial infection that may cause ulcers (Helicobacter pylori infection), high blood pressure, infertility, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, stroke, and skin disorders including psoriasis and vitiligo. It is used to reduce symptoms of breathing disorders such as asthma and exercise-induced asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is also used to improve memory and muscle strength. Some people use beta-carotene to reduce toxicity associated with chemotherapy, including the development of white patches or swelling and ulcers that occur inside the mouth. It is also taken by mouth to prevent the development of new moles on the skin, death due to long-term liver disease, a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and the enlargement of a blood vessel located near the abdomen (abdominal aneurysm).

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 take beta-carotene by mouth to prevent sunburn. Also, people take beta-carotene by mouth to prevent sensitivity to sunlight resulting from certain diseases such as erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) or polymorphous light eruption.

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 five servings of fruits and vegetables daily provides 6-8 mg of beta-carotene.

How it works

Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A, an essential nutrient. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, which help to protect cells from damage.


Treating sun sensitivity in people who have a form of inherited blood disorder called "erythropoietic protoporphyria

" Taking beta-carotene by mouth can reduce sensitivity to the sun in people with erythropoietic protoporphyria.


Likely safe

Beta-carotene is LIKELY SAFE in adults and children when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts for certain specific medical conditions. However, beta-carotene supplements are not recommended for general use

Possibly unsafe

Beta-carotene is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in high doses, especially when taken long-term. High doses of beta-carotene can turn skin yellow or orange.There is growing concern that taking high doses of antioxidant supplements such as beta-carotene might do more harm than good. Some research shows that taking high doses of beta-carotene supplements might increase the chance of death from all causes, increase the risk of certain cancers, and possibly other serious side effects. In addition, there is also concern that taking large amounts of a multivitamin plus a separate beta-carotene supplement increases the chance of developing advanced prostate cancer in men.



Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Beta-carotene isLIKELY SAFEwhen taken by mouth in appropriate amounts. However, large doses of beta-carotene supplements are not recommended for general use during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Angioplasty, a heart procedure: There is some concern that when antioxidant vitamins, including beta-carotene, are used together they might have harmful effects after angioplasty. They can interfere with healing. Don't use beta-carotene and other antioxidant vitamins before or after angioplasty without the recommendation of your healthcare provider.

History of asbestos exposure: In people who have been exposed to asbestos, beta-carotene supplements might increase the risk of cancer. Dont take beta-carotene supplements if you have been exposed to asbestos.

Smoking. In people who smoke, beta-carotene supplements might increase the risk of colon, lung, and prostate cancer. Don't take beta-carotene supplements if you smoke.


Always consult with your doctor.

Taking beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E together might decrease the effectiveness of some medications used for lowering cholesterol. It is not known if beta-carotene alone decreases the effectiveness of all medications used for lowering cholesterol.Some medications used for lowering cholesterol include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), and pravastatin (Pravachol).Niacin can increase good cholesterol levels. Taking beta-carotene along with vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium might decrease the effects of niacin on good cholesterol levels.

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