Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene
Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants, fruits and colorful vegetables–especially carrots The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol). Thus, β-carotene is called a “precursor” of vit. A which is an antioxidant that can be toxic at high levels. Antioxidants help reverse the damage caused by oxygen free radicals in the body. One study has shown an increased risk of lung cancer among smokers taking high amounts of beta carotene.

The counteractive effects of vit. A in relieving oxidative stress has been thought to be a way of preventing cognitive decline. A Harvard Medical School-based
study in 2007 reported that among 4,000 men those taking beta carotene supplements had significantly less cognitive loss than those on placebo over the long term. Unfortunately, the WACS study did not find 50 mg every other day of β-carotene to slow cognitive decline in women. Here’s a nice little summary of β-carotene. So the results are equivocal.

Foods that are rich in beta carotene include:

• apricots
• asparagus
• broccoli
• carrots
• chinese cabbage
• chives
• dandelion leaves
• grapefruit
• kale
• ketchup
• some margarines
• onions
• peppers
• plums
• pumpkin
• spices/herbs
(paprika, parsley, oregano, chilli powder)
• spinach
• squash
• sweet potatoes
• gac
(a Vietnamese fruit)*
• crude palm oil*
have the high amount of β-carotene per ounce of any food.

It makes sense to include
β-carotene in your diet, but not to take additional amounts of it as a supplement.