What other names is Beta-carotene known by?
A-Beta-Carotene, A-Bêta-Carotène, Beta Carotene, Bêta-Carotène, Bêta-Carotène Tout Trans, Beta-Caroteno, Carotenes, Carotènes, Carotenoids, Caroténoïdes, Caroténoïdes Mélangés, Mixed Carotenoids, Provitamin A, Provitamine A.
What is Beta-carotene?
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
, and age related macular degeneration
(AMD); and to treat AIDS
, Alzheimer's disease
, high blood pressure
, Parkinson's disease
, rheumatoid arthritis
, and skin disorders including psoriasis
Beta-carotene is also in used in malnourished (underfed) women to reduce the chance of death and night blindness
, as well as diarrhea
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.
- Treating sun sensitivity in people who have a form of inherited blood disorder called "erythropoietic protoporphyria." Takin beta-carotene by mouth can reduce sensitivity to the sun in people with erythropoietic protoporphyria.
Possibly Effective for...
- An eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Taking beta-carotene by mouth along with vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc daily, seems to help prevent vision loss and worsening of AMD in people with advanced AMD. Taking beta-carotene plus antioxidants but without zinc does not seem to improve advanced AMD. There isn't enough evidence to know taking beta-carotene along with other antioxidants works for people with less advanced macular disease. There is conflicting evidence about whether beta-carotene supplements can help reduce the risk of developing AMD.
- Breast cancer. Eating more fruits and vegetable that contain beta-carotene seems decrease the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer, including those with a family history and those who use alcohol excessively.
- Preventing complications of lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD). Eating more beta-carotene in the diet seems to help prevent bronchitis and difficulty breathing in smokers with COPD, but beta-carotene supplements do not..
- Asthma attacks triggered by exercise. Taking beta-carotene by mouth seems to reduce asthma attacks that are triggered by exercise.
- White patches on the tongue and mouth called oral leukoplakia. Taking beta-carotene by mouth for up to 12 months seems to decrease symptoms of oral leukoplakia.
- Osteoarthritis. Beta-carotene taken by mouth may prevent osteoarthritis from getting worse, but it does not seem to prevent osteoarthritis.
- Ovarian cancer. Eating a diet rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer in women after menopause.
- Physical performance. Eating a diet that contains a higher amount of beta-carotene seems to improve physical performance and muscle strength in older people.
- Preventing complications post-childbirth. Taking beta-carotene by mouth before, during, and after pregnancy seems to reduce the incidence of diarrhea and fever post-childbirth.
- Pregnancy-related complications. Taking beta-carotene by mouth seems to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related death, pregnancy-related night blindness, and post-childbirth diarrhea and fever in underfed women.
- Sunburn. Taking beta-carotene by mouth may decrease sunburn in people sensitive to the sun. However, taking beta-carotene is unlikely to have much effect on sunburn risk in most people. Also, beta-carotene does not appear to reduce the risk of skin cancer or other skin disorders associated with sun exposure.
Possibly Ineffective for...
- Alzheimer's disease. Eating a diet that contains a higher amount of beta-carotene does not seem to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Cataracts. Taking beta-carotene alone or in combination with vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, for up to 8 years does not reduce the incidence or progression of cataracts.
- Cystic fibrosis. Taking beta-carotene by mouth for up to 14 months does not improve lung health in people with cystic fibrosis.
- Diabetes. Some early research suggests that eating a diet containing higher amounts of beta-carotene is linked with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, conflicting evidence exists. Taking beta-carotene supplements does not reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or the risk of experiencing complications associated with diabetes.
- Moles. Research shows that taking beta-carotene by mouth for 3 years does not reduce the development of new moles.
- Overall risk of death. Some research suggests that taking supplements containing beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc for about 7 years might lower the risk of death in men, but not women. However, other research shows that taking larger doses of beta-carotene in for up to 12 years may increase the risk of death in both men and women.
- Stroke. Taking beta-carotene by mouth for about 6 years has no effect on the risk of stroke in male smokers. Also, there is some evidence that taking beta-carotene supplements increases the risk of bleeding in the brain in people who drink alcohol.
Likely Ineffective for...
- Preventing abdominal aortic aneurysm, or the enlargement of a large vessel running through the abdomen. Evidence suggests that taking beta-carotene by mouth for about 5.8 years does not reduce the occurrence of abdominal aortic aneurysm in male smokers.
- Cancer. Beta-carotene does not seem to prevent or decrease death from uterine cancer, cervical cancer, thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, skin cancers (melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma), brain cancer, and blood cancer (leukemia). However, some research suggests a combination of beta-carotene with vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc might lower cancer rates in men, but not women. Researchers speculate that men have lower intake of dietary antioxidants and therefore might benefit more from supplements.
- Heart disease. A Science Advisory from the American Heart Association states that the evidence does not justify use of antioxidants such as beta-carotene for reducing the risk of heart disease. Evidence also shows that beta-carotene in combination with vitamin C and E does not decrease heart disease risk.
- Colon cancer. Research shows that taking beta-carotene by mouth, alone or with vitamins C and E, selenium, and calcium carbonate, does not decrease the risk of colon tumor growth. In some people who have had colon tumors removed, taking beta-carotene supplements seems to reduce the risk of recurrence. However, in people that smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, taking beta-carotene supplements increases the risk of new tumors. It is unclear if dietary beta-carotene reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- Lung cancer. Taking beta-carotene actually seems to increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke (especially those smoking more than 20 cigarettes per day), former smokers, people exposed to asbestos, and those who use alcohol (one or more drinks per day) in addition to smoking. However, beta-carotene from food does not seem to have this adverse effect. Also, taking supplements containing beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium for about 5 years does not reduce the risk of death in people previously diagnosed with lung cancer.
- Prostate cancer. Taking beta-carotene supplements does not prevent prostate cancer in most men. In fact, there is some concern that beta-carotene supplements might actually increase the risk of prostate cancer in some men. There is evidence that men who take a multivitamin daily along with a separate beta-carotene supplement have an increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Also, men who smoke and take beta-carotene supplements have in increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Asthma. Eating a diet high in beta-carotene does not seem to be linked with a reduced occurrence of asthma.
- Side effects from chemotherapy. Eating a diet high in beta-carotene is linked with reduced toxic effects in children undergoing chemotherapy for a blood cancer called lymphoblastic leukemia.
- Mental performance. Some evidence suggests that taking beta-carotene for one year does not improve thinking skills and memory in older men. However, taking beta-carotene for up to 18 years may improve these outcomes.
- Esophageal cancer. Taking beta-carotene supplements alone or in combination with vitamin A or vitamin E plus vitamin C doesn't seem to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.
- Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) infection, which causes stomach ulcers. Taking beta-carotene by mouth, in combination with prescription drugs, does not help treat H. pylori infection better than prescription drugs alone.
- HIV/AIDS. Some early research suggests that taking beta-carotene by mouth for 4 weeks helps improve immune system function in people with HIV. However, conflicting evidence exists.
- Stomach cancer. Some evidence suggests that taking beta-carotene does not decrease risk of gastric cancer. Also, taking beta-carotene in combination with vitamins A, C, and/or E does not seem to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. However, some early evidence suggests that taking beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium might reduce the risk of stomach cancer but not the risk of death in underfed, Chinese people who are at high risk. Also, taking beta-carotene seems to help treat precancerous lesions in the stomach in people at risk for stomach cancer.
- Swelling and deterioration of the lining of the mouth (oral mucositis). Taking beta-carotene by mouth doesn't appear to prevent the development of oral mucositis during radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
- Pancreatic cancer. Taking beta-carotene supplements alone or in combination with other antioxidants such as vitamin A or vitamin E doesn't seem to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- A skin rash due to sun sensitivity called polymorphous light eruption. Some evidence suggests that taking beta-carotene by mouth can improve sensitivity to sun exposure in people with polymorphous light eruptions. However, conflicting evidence exists.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Parkinson's disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate beta-carotene for these uses.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
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