What is Beta-Carotene?Beta-carotene is the most common form of carotene and belongs to the group of terpenoids. Pure beta-carotene is red to purple colored oil. It is not soluble in water. Beta-carotene which is used in drinks is encapsulated with starch or gelatin to make it soluble.
DistributionBeta-carotene occurs in colored fruits and vegetables such as mango, apricot, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash and collard greens.
Health Benefits of Beta-CaroteneBeta-carotene has received a lot of attention as potential anti-cancer and anti-aging phytochemical. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Studies indicate that diets low in beta-carotene can increase the body's susceptibility to damage from free radicals, resulting in an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancers. Beta-carotene supplements may help reduce sun induced skin damage. Smokers should avoid large doses of beta carotene supplements. Beta-carotene is one of the many carotenoids that our body can convert into vitamin A (retinol).
Beta-carotene acts as an anti-cancer agent through its antioxidant property but it also seems to stimulate cell to cell communication. Poor communication between cells may eventually lead to cancer. However, beta-carotene may cause adverse effects on smokers. Two studies indicate that heavy smokers and drinkers may have an increased risk of lung cancer or heart disease, when taking daily more than 20 mg synthetic beta-carotene as supplements. A study by Harvard School of Public Health published in January 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention indicates that beta-carotene consumed as part of natural foods has no such negative effects.
Studies have demonstrated that beta-carotene may be used for skin protection: it reduces UV-induced redness of the skin and improves melasma. Beta-carotene is often use in supplements or topical creams to protect our skin. Too much intake of beta-carotene can result in carotenodermia, a condition that shows a yellowish discoloration of the skin. This is reversible and harmless.
Epidemiological studies show that beta-carotene may improve our heart health by decreasing blood pressure. Beta-carotene may also help to prevent arteriosclerosis by inhibiting the oxidation of lipids.
Facts about Beta-CaroteneBeta-Carotene is a yellow pigment naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. It also known as a provitamin because it can be converted in our body into vitamin A after oxidative cleavage by beta-carotene 15, 150-dioxygenase. In plants, beta-carotene, acts as an anti-oxidant and neutralizes singlet oxygen radicals formed during photosynthesis. Cooking improves the availability of carotenoids in foods. However, prolonged cooking should be avoided to prevent the formation of change of beta-carotene into the cis-configuration.