Beta-carotene is a variety of carotenoid, commonly identified by the red, yellow, and orange pigments that color a whole host of fruits and vegetables. Once in the body, beta-carotene gets converted to Vitamin A, an essential vitamin first identified in the 1930s. It is a vitamin that is very important to help the body improve itself and grow.
Beta-carotene works as a powerful booster of the immune system as well as a potent antioxidant that battles free radicals. These free radicals are what damage cells in human bodies. Therefore, beta-carotene plays a vital and important role in helping the body function properly and for general health.
Whenever we eat lots of vegetables and fruits, we are taking in quantities of beta-carotene at the same time. These fruits and vegetables are thus our biggest source of beta-carotene. Supplements, however, are also popular with many people, and that’s why a variety of health food stores sell beta-carotene in that form. However, supplements are not necessarily the right choice in some cases.
On the issue of supplements, it’s relevant to note that enthusiasts and scientists alike have been hoping that concentrated forms of beta-carotene could protect the heart and possibly guard against certain types of cancer. Unfortunately, however, recent studies indicate that single and large-dose supplements of beta-carotene can cause more harm than good. This is because there is the possibility that large doses of beta-carotene could actually increase free radicals within the body.
Thus, until the moment that we know more about beta-carotene’s effects, it’s probably a good idea to take beta-carotene supplements only in combination with other carotenoids in a combined complex. You would do well to get a product that offers a combination of beta-carotene with other types of carotenes, such as lycopene, zeaxanthin, lutein, acarelpha-carotene, and cryptoxanthin.
As well as the research that found beta-carotene useful for preventing cancer and heart disease, other recent discoveries hold that beta-carotene might be useful in combating chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, male infertility, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also interesting to know that modest amounts of antioxidants like beta-carotene can help in improving cataracts, when the eye’s lens is clouded and vision is impaired.
Some initial studies have suggested a likely connection between not enough beta-carotene, as well as insufficient Vitamin A and E, with the enhancement of lupus, an auto-immune disorder.
Since a lot of different products containing beta-carotene are widely available today, experts have suggested that insufficient beta-carotene intake is related to the fact that there is no RDA for it as of yet. However, an amount of 10,000 IU is enough to provide the RDA for Vitamin A. Thus, it’s fairly easy to understand why having symptoms of beta-carotene deficiency, like vulnerability to infection, dry skin, and night blindness, are similar to a corresponding deficiency of Vitamin A.
The best sources for beta-carotene are definitely fruits and vegetables. You can find many green vegetables that provide a decent amount of it, and it’s the dark-colored vegetables and fruits that contain high amounts of this nutrient.