Beta carotene (or β carotene) is the plant and fruit pigment. It gives many plants the red and orange color, has some antioxidant properties and is also the most important precursor of vitamin A. In the body, beta carotene gets transformed into the vitamin A, and because of that it is classified as the member of provitamin A carotenoids.
Beta carotene can be found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including: carrots, green leafy vegetables, spinach, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. There are also beta carotene supplements available at the market these days.
Beta carotene is important for the normal functioning of the immune system and development of teeth and bones. This plant pigment is often recommended to treat vitamin A deficiency and its symptoms, such as: skin, immune system and vision problems. It can be used in asthma and psoriasis therapy, in the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) and arthritis. Patients suffering from depression may also find beta carotene very helpful.
Beta Carotene Toxicity
There are no negative consequences if you eat plenty of food rich in beta carotene. However, overuse of beta carotene supplements might cause toxic effects to the human organism. The most common symptoms are: allergic reactions to beta carotene, skin problems, and heightened risk of developing the cardiovascular and heart problems. There is also the possible problem with other medications, since the beta carotene in high doses might interact with them.
Skin discoloration is the most prominent symptoms of beta carotene overdose. The face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet are the part most affected by the yellowish color.
There is a possibility of interaction with some medications, especially if you use beta carotene with other drugs. Always consult your doctor about the potential interactions and their health risks.
The general rule is to avoid beta carotene supplements if you are a smoker. Using these supplements, smokers have an increased the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, prostate or lung cancer or intracerebral (brain) hemorrhage.
Children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must be closely watched if they are using beta carotene supplements. Some doctors even recommend avoiding the supplements in these people, because of the lack of safety information.
People allergic to products containing vitamin A and/or carotene, should not use beta carotene supplements. Allergies to these supplements are often presented as dizziness, headaches and skin issues. Patients are advised to use the food rich in beta carotene to compensate the lack of provitamin A.