Beta carotene is a carotenoid, a compound found in plants. It’s the pigment that gives yellow and orange fruits their bright coloring. Think carrots, and you’ll get the idea. So you can imagine that beta carotene benefits the body in many ways.

But first, in the body beta carotene is converted into Vitamin A for absorption. You see, beta carotene is considered a provitamin, as it is first converted to Vitamin A before it’s used by the body. Vitamin A plays a key role in maintaining healthy skin, vision and neurological function. (1)

Beta carotene supplements are often a controversial topic. But the benefits of filling your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables are clear. Beta carotene benefits include the ability to improve respiratory health, support a healthy pregnancy and protect the eyes and skin from damage.

Beta Carotene Benefits

1. Provides Powerful Antioxidants

Beta carotene benefits include its powerful antioxidant properties. It provides the body with antioxidants that help fight free-radical damage. And we know that free-radical damage can cause premature aging and neurodegeneration. Studies have shown that beta carotene can help lower oxidative stress and inflammation to help protect the body from disease. (2)

2. Supports a Healthy Pregnancy

Beta carotene benefits include the ability to support a healthy pregnancy. As we’ve learned, this provitamin is converted into Vitamin A in the body, which plays a critical role in developing a healthy baby. Research suggests a 40% increase in Vitamin A intake for pregnant women, along with a 90% intake in Vitamin A for women who are breastfeeding. Beta carotene benefits lung development and immune system development for infants as well as toddlers. (3)

3. Protects the Skin

In addition to supporting a healthy pregnancy, beta carotene benefits the skin, as well, by offering protection from damage. In fact, studies have shown that beta carotene can help prevent the formation of UV-induced erythema or skin irritation. It can also help protect the skin from sunburn by increasing the basal defense against skin damage caused by harmful UV rays. (4)

carrots beta carotene benefits

4. Protects the Eyes

Similar to protecting the skin from damage, beta carotene benefits include the ability to protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration. For example, antioxidants play an important role in slowing down the progression of macular degeneration symptoms by preventing damage caused by oxidative stress. Specifically, research has shown that beta carotene, zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E all play a role in protecting the eyes from damage. (5)

5. Treats Oral Leukoplakia

Haven’t heard of oral leukoplakia? Well then, you may be getting enough beta carotene. That’s because beta carotene benefits include the ability to treat oral leukoplakia, a condition in which thick, white patches form inside the mouth. While most leukoplakia patches are benign, some can be an early sign of oral cancer. In addition, studies have shown that beta carotene benefits include the ability to reduce the condition and even offer protection from oral cancer. (6)

6. Improves Respiratory Health

Now, we know that several viruses cause respiratory illness. So how can beta carotene benefit you? Well, research into beta carotene benefits include the ability to improve respiratory health. According to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, eating fruits that contain beta carotene can help improve pulmonary and respiratory function. Specifically, fruits including mango, papaya and cantaloupe can help reduce phlegm production, reduce wheezing, and improve shortness of breath. (7)

beta carotene benefits

Beta Carotene and Lung Cancer

Research on the link between beta carotene supplements and lung cancer varies. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed an increased risk of lung and stomach cancers in smokers who supplemented with beta carotene. However, a study conducted at Yale University School of Medicine found that high fruit and vegetable consumption, especially those that contain carotenoids, can help reduce the risk of lung cancer. Most researchers agree that people who smoke and drink heavily should not take beta carotene supplements, unless instructed to by a health care professional. (8)

Beta Carotene and Heart Disease

Finally, studies have shown that antioxidant foods can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, beta carotene supplements may slightly increase the risk of cardiovascular death. For optimum heart health, stick to fresh fruits and vegetables that are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and carotenoids. (9)