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What Is Beta-Carotene Good For?

By Lisa Porter

Beta-carotene, a fat-soluble, pigmented compound, is one of several types of carotenoids in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods that contain beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers, apricots, spinach and green, leafy vegetables. Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties and, along with other carotenoids, provides about 50 percent of the vitamin A needed in a healthy diet.

Vitamin A

The body converts beta-carotene and other carotenoids to vitamin A, an essential nutrient. Vitamin A plays an essential role in cell division, reproduction, bone growth, vision, skin health and immune system regulation. Sufficient vitamin A helps the body fight infections. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and a decreased ability to fight infections.

Reducing Sunburn Risk

Beta-carotene can reduce sun sensitivity and risk of sunburn in people with increased vulnerability to sunburns, including individuals with erythropoietic protoporphyria, an inherited blood disorder.

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Reducing Disease Risk

Premenopausal women who consume fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene may have a reduced risk for breast cancer, according to MedlinePlus. Beta-carotene may be more effective at reducing breast cancer risk in high-risk women, such as women with a family history of breast cancer or women who consume large amounts of alcohol. Beta-carotene may also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women, and it may reduce the risk of pregnancy-related death, diarrhea and fever after delivery in malnourished women.

Disease Treatment

Supplementation with beta-carotene, along with vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, may help treat advanced age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease. Beta-carotene may prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks, and it may prevent the worsening of existing osteoarthritis. It may also treat oral leukoplakia, a tongue disease.

Warning

Most people should get sufficient beta-carotene through food sources. Beta-carotene supplements may not be safe for everyone, and you should only take them for specific medical conditions and with appropriate supervision. High doses of beta-carotene supplements taken long term may not be safe.

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