Beta carotene is a fat soluble compound known as a cartenoid, which are known to have powerful antioxidant properties.
It was originally given its name because it was first discovered as an extract from carrots, and indeed beta carotene is an integral part of the chemical make-up which gives carrots their distinctive orange look.
They occur naturally in a variety of foods including many fruits and vegetables.
This antioxidant is also sometimes referred to as a pro-vitamin, which means that it can be converted into vitamin A by the body.
It can also be converted into retinol, which is essential for maintaining healthy eyes, and thereafter into retinoic acid which plays an active role in cell growth.
Most commercially available beta carotene supplements are derived from algae or fungi, though some products are also made from palm oil.
A lot of the health benefits ascribed to vitamin A can be ascribed to beta carotene as well, since the two are to all intents and purposes the same inside the human body.
These means that it can help to maintain a robust immune system and healthy eyes, in addition to its other recorded medicinal uses.
Beta carotene preventing vitamin A deficiency
Studies show that beta carotene can prevent vitamin A deficiency, which makes sense since it can be converted into vitamin A by the body.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a number of serious health problems, including a compromised immune system and damage to the eyes, in some cases even causing blindness.
Children and the elderly are at particular risk of vitamin A deficiency, as it also makes it more likely that they will contract dangerous infectious diseases such as measles.
Highly effective for genetic disorder
Beta carotene is primary treatment for Erythropoietic protoporphyria, which is a genetic disorder that can present with photo-sensitivity, gallstones and liver problems.
Some studies have shown that supplementing with beta carotene may help to prevent or slow the growth of cataracts.
The early findings with regard to this are promising, though further investigation is needed in order to confirm benefits in this regard.
Some doctors recommend that children undergoing courses of chemotherapy to treat cancer take regular doses of beta carotene, which is believed to reduce the risk of complications and unwanted side-effects resulting from the treatment.
Beta carotene – antioxidant properties
Though the antioxidant properties of it may also prevent some anti-cancer drugs from working correctly, so proper medical supervision in this regard is essential.
Active smokers can take Beta carotene
Men who smoke are at increased risk of suffering dyspnea and bronchitis, conditions which may be prevented in some cases by beta carotene supplementation, as some studies indicate reduced rates of these illnesses in smokers who regularly took beta carotene.
Sufferers of cystic fibrosis have also reported an improvement in their condition as a result of taking beta carotene on a regular basis, which corresponds with its profile as an antioxidant, since cystic fibrosis sufferers are at increased risk of tissue damage due to free radicals, which can be countered by antioxidants.
Implications for different diseases
People whose asthma is brought on by exercise may see benefits from supplementing their diets with This antioxidant, which has been shown in some cases to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks following exertion.
It may also be taken as a measure to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, as it can have the same beneficial effects in this regard as its cousin carotenoids lutein, lycopene and zeaxathin, all of which have been shown to slow macular degeneration.
There is also a possibility that beta carotene may cause some leukoplakia patients to experience remission, though studies in regard of this are not conclusive.
This antioxidant may also be able to slow the onset of osteoarthritis, with promising results in regard of this recently having been forthcoming.
Pregnancy and beta carotene
Pregnant women are often recommended to take this antioxidant as a supplement because it has been shown in studies to possibly reduce the incidence of infant mortality, as well as treating side-effects of pregnancy such as anemia and more serious complications that may put the mother at risk.
Additionally, pregnant women require additional vitamin and mineral nutrition, and as we know This antioxidant can be converted into vitamin A if and when the body finds itself short.
As an antioxidant, it may also be helpful in treating sunburn, which is essentially free radical damage caused by exposure to the harmful UV radiation from the sun.
Beta carotene prevents the free radicals from attaching themselves to, and destroying, healthy tissue, and can also therefore decrease the risk of a person developing cancer as a result of overexposure to the sun.
Beta carotene is a common component in many multivitamin formulations, and is recommended to most people as a beneficial dietary supplement.
A minority of people may experience side-effects as a result of taking beta carotene, in which case they should discontinue use of the supplement immediately and seek medical advice.