Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that can be found in plants. It’s the pigment that gives yellow and orange fruits, like carrots, their bright coloring. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A for absorption. Vitamin A plays a key role in maintaining healthy skin, vision and neurological function. 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.
1. Provides Powerful Antioxidants
Beta-carotene benefits include powerful antioxidant properties. It provides the body with antioxidants that help fight free radical damage which 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. Supports a Healthy Pregnancy
Beta-carotene benefits include the ability to support a healthy pregnancy. The carotenoid is converted into Vitamin A in the body, which plays an important 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. (1)
3. Protects the Skin
Beta-carotene benefits the skin by offering protection from damage. 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. Protects the Eyes
Beta-carotene benefits include the ability to protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration. Antioxidants play an important role in slowing down the progression of macular degeneration symptoms by preventing damage caused by oxidative stress. Research has shown that beta-carotene, zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin E all play a role in protecting the eyes from damage. (2)
5. Treats Oral Leukoplakia
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. Studies have shown that beta-carotene benefits include the ability to reduce the condition and even offer protection from oral cancer. (3)
6. Improves Respiratory Health
Research has shown that 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. Fruits including mango, papaya and cantaloupe can help reduce phlegm production, reduce wheezing and improve shortness of breath.
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. (4)
Beta-Carotene and Heart Disease
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.