Beta Carotene and Carotene

Beta carotene is a naturally occurring yellow to orange chemical found in plants, and responsible for the yellowish colouration of carrots and other orange or yellow fruits, vegetables, and the yolk of eggs.

Beta carotene is just one form of carotene, all been un-oxidised carotenoids. Thus beta carotene is same as carotene, just as you have different models of the same car, say different series of BMW. These carotenoids absorb sunlight and transfer it to chlorophyll, where photosynthesis takes place in plants.

Of the over 600 carotenes that have been identified, 50 have been found to posses Vitamin A activity. Once eaten, they are broken down in the intestines to Vitamin A, or stored in the liver, lungs and skin.

Carotenes are what help protect plants as well as the body against the potentially damaging effects of free radicals.

Antioxidants are able to neutralise the power of free radicals.

Oxidation of the body's cells is very similar to what happens when rust appears on a car. Once the cells inside the body start becoming oxidized, serious health complications often result. Some of these adverse conditions include heart disease, macular degeneration, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and cataracts.

Other forms of carotenes include:

α – Carotene (Alpha-Carotenes)

Alpha carotenes are the most common form in which carotene occurs in healthy diets. They are the same basic substance as carotene or any of the other types, but for a slight change in the arrangement of their chemical structure. Alpha carotenes are the most powerful anti-oxidants in food, and have up to one and half times more anti-oxidant activity than beta-carotene. You can get alpha carotenes from the fungi algae Dunaliella and from palm oil.

δ – Carotene (Delta – Carotenes)

This is another form of carotenes found also in vegetables. Much is not known about them.

ε – Carotene (epsilon –Carotenes)

Like the above, this form of carotene is also not known in great details.


Carotenes are un-oxidised forms of carotenoids. Carotenoids are actually the main family from where carotenes come from, or better put, carotenes are a type of carotenoids. Palm oil is the richest natural source of carotenoids.

Beta carotene is from carrots or palm oil is used in colouring food, ice crème and tablets and fruit juice.

Since these agents have vitamin A, activity, beta carotene is used in the treatment of acne.

Benefit of beta Carotene

The benefits of beta carotene include the following:

Treatment of Sensitivity to the Sun

Because beta carotene is stored in the skin, it gives some protection against sensitivity to the sun. This is even more so in individuals with a skin condition called erythropoietic protoporphyria. In those who suffer with this condition, exposure to the sun causes them to develop a hive or full blown eczema. Administration of beta carotene supplements helps in reversing this skin sensitivity to the sun within weeks.

Treatment of Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a condition where the skin becomes very hard and thick. Those with this condition have been shown to have low levels of beta carotene. It is speculated that eating lots of carrots and fruits high in beta carotene may in fact help in the treatment of this skin disorder.

Protection against heart attacks

Heart attack is a situation where there is severe blockage of the coronary artery leading to no supply of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart muscle. Eating foods from plants, which are rich in beta carotene may be of good help.

Protection against cancer

The relationship between beta carotene and cancer is very clear from a number of Japanese (Nishino, Hayoku) as well as America (Meysken et al) studies .In the Japanese study, low levels of beta carotene were found consistently in the blood of those with certain kind of cancer. It was concluded that consumption of beta carotene as well as alpha carotene from palm oil or the fungi algae Dunaliella may help against brain tumours, liver cancer and skin cancer.

In America, a population based study where individuals who consistently eat at least four different fruits rich in beta carotene was analysed, they had much reduced incidence of cancer than others who do not eat beta carotene rich foods.

Beta Carotene and Cancer – The Paradox

Even though it has been clearly shown that beta carotene help in cancer prevention, those who smoke, those who have been exposed to asbestos, or take too much alcohol (recommended medical limits of alcohol for health is 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for females; one pint of beer is two units, one shot of spirit is a unit, and one regular glass of wine is a unit of alcohol too), have a higher chance of developing lung cancer or heart disease.

A study in the US, published in 1996, called the CARET trail had to be stopped midway as those receiving beta carotene who smoked were found to be developing lung cancer. So if you smoke or drink a lot, carotenes are not for you. Watch what you eat too. A lot of green vegetables may be more appropriate for you. Discuss with your doctor.

Beta Carotene Source

The following are natural sources of beta carotene:

• Dark green and brightly-colored vegetables such as kale, collard greens, escarole, chicory, endive, romaine lettuce, broccoli, peas, carrots, red pepper, pumpkin, squash, turnips, sweet potato and tomatoes

• The fungi algae Dunaliella

• Palm oil.

Beta carotene in excess is not toxic.Excessive vitamin A will lead to toxicity and death could ensue. Unlike vitamin A however, excessive intake of carotene will cause the skin to go yellow or tan, but does not kill. The reason for this is that the body only converts the right amount of Vitamin A from carotenes and no more. You can also get beta carotene as Beta Carotene Supplement which you can buy from Amazon online Chemist at very low prices or from

See the link below for related topics like:

Vitamin A

All other Vitamins

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