Beta carotene and other carotenoids are believed to provide antioxidant protection to lipid-rich tissues. Research suggests beta carotene may work synergistically with vitamin E. A diet that is excessively low in fat may negatively affect beta carotene and vitamin E absorption, as well as other fat-soluble nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are major sources of vitamin C and carotenoids. Beta-carotene is found primarily in deep yellow-orange and dark green fruits and vegetables, including carrots, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, beets, papaya, cantaloupe, mango, apricots and watermelon.

In a German study, the mean total carotenoid intake amounted to 5.33mg per day. The average intake of lutein was 1.91mg/day, beta-carotene 1.81mg/day, lycopene 1.28mg/day, alpha-carotene 0.29mg/day, and cryptoxanthin 0.05mg/day.

Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and is not considered toxic. However, preformed vitamin A can be toxic at higher doses, especially in the usual fat-soluble form.

Generally, carotene will turn the skin yellow when the intake is above 20mg per day (about 34,000 IU). The yellow skin tint is most noticeable on the hands and soles of your feet where there is little underlying tissue between the skin and bones. If the carotene supplement is discontinued, the skin will lose the yellow tint.


Beta-Carotene can help with the following


Current Smoker

Synthetic supplemental beta-carotene should be avoided by those who smoke as it appears to increase the risk of lung cancer and colorectal adenomas (polyps). [J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95: pp. 717-722]


Alcohol-related Problems

Synthetic supplemental beta-carotene should be avoided by those who consume alcohol as it appears to increase the risk colorectal adenomas (polyps). [J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95: pp. 717-722]

Drug Side Effects  

Chemotherapy Side-Effects/Risks

Chemotherapy frequently causes mouth sores. In one trial, people were given approximately 400,000 IU of beta-carotene per day for three weeks and then 125,000 IU per day for an additional four weeks. Those taking beta-carotene still suffered mouth sores, but the mouth sores developed later and tended to be less severe than mouth sores that formed in people receiving the same chemotherapy without beta-carotene.

Environment / Toxicity  

Cigarette Smoke Damage

High daily doses of beta-carotene, 30,000 to 50,000 IU (20 – 32mg), have been shown to raise the risk of cancer in heavy smokers.

The Immune System  

Weakened Immune System

A daily intake of beta-carotene at 25,000 IU (16mg) appears to be optimal to strengthen immunity.

Organ Health  


Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

A study published in 1992 by the State University of New York compared 310 women having breast cancer to 316 women without the disease. The study found that the cancer-free group ate many more beta carotene-containing fruits and vegetables than he women with breast cancer. In addition, the National Cancer Institute studied 83 women with breast cancer and found that they had lower blood levels of beta carotene.


Increased Risk of Lymphoma

The diets of 358 white men and women with NHL and 1432 controls living in Nebraska were compared. Dietary carotene intake was inversely related to NHL risk in men but not in women.

[Ward MH, Hoar ZS, Weisenburger DD, et al. Dietary factors and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Nebraska]


Cervical Dysplasia

Recent evidence suggests that beta-carotene (in doses of about 25,000 IU per day) and/or vitamin C may reverse or reduce the risk of cervical dysplasia.




May do some good
Likely to help
May have adverse consequences



The most abundant of the carotenoids, beta-carotene has strong provitamin A activity and is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin A. It is widely accepted today as a cancer preventative. It is found in leafy green and yellow vegetables, often missing in children's diets. Beta-Carotene is believed to be a superior source of Vitamin A because it is readily converted into a more active form of the substance: your body converts it to Vitamin A as needed.


A chemical compound that slows or prevents oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Some antioxidants have been shown to have cancer-protecting potential because they neutralize free radicals. Examples include vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, beta carotene, the minerals selenium, zinc, and germanium, superoxide dismutase (SOD), coenzyme Q10, catalase, and some amino acids, like cystiene. Other nutrient sources include grape seed extract, curcumin, gingko, green tea, olive leaf, policosanol and pycnogenol.


Converted into vitamin A in the body from a yellow pigment that has several forms (i.e., alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene).

Vitamin E

An essential fat-soluble vitamin. As an antioxidant, helps protect cell membranes, lipoproteins, fats and vitamin A from destructive oxidation. It helps protect red blood cells and is important for the proper function of nerves and muscles. For Vitamin E only, 1mg translates to 1 IU.

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin essential to the body's health. When bound to other nutrients, for example calcium, it would be referred to as "calcium ascorbate". As an antioxidant, it inhibits the formation of nitrosamines (a suspected carcinogen). Vitamin C is important for maintenance of bones, teeth, collagen and blood vessels (capillaries), enhances iron absorption and red blood cell formation, helps in the utilization of carbohydrates and synthesis of fats and proteins, aids in fighting bacterial infections, and interacts with other nutrients. It is present in citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, potatoes and fresh, green leafy vegetables.


A group of red, orange and yellow pigments found in plant foods and in the tissues of organisms that consume plants. Carotenoids have antioxidant activity and some, but not all, can act as precursors of vitamin A. Studies have shown that several carotenoids other than beta-carotene are potent antioxidants that provide profound health benefits. Because of this, the scientific community has now recognized the importance of natural mixed carotenoids including beta-carotene.


(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Plays an important part in the growth and repair of body tissue, protects epithelial tissue, helps maintain the skin and is necessary for night vision. It is also necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin A only, 1mg translates to 833 IU.


International Units. One IU is 1/40th (0.025) of a microgram (mcg).

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