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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Beta-Carotene Usage

Written by FoundHealth.


Effect of Beta-Carotene on Cervical Cancer

Beta-carotene is also often recommended for another reason: it is an antioxidant, like vitamin E and vitamin C. In observational studies, high intake of carotenoids from food has been associated with...

Read more about Cervical Cancer and Beta-Carotene.

Effect of Beta-Carotene on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Read more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Beta-Carotene.

Therapeutic Uses

There are no well-documented therapeutic uses of beta-carotene, beyond supplying nutritional doses of vitamin A.

Numerous observational studies have found that a high intake of foods rich in carotenoids is associated with a lower incidence of lung cancer, other forms of cancer , and heart disease . 1 2 3 4 5 6 However, beta-carotene supplements have not been found to be helpful for preventing these conditions. 7 In fact, when all major beta-carotene studies are statistically combined through a process called “meta-analysis,” some evidence appears suggesting that long-term usage of beta-carotene at high doses might increaseoverall death rate, for reasons that are unclear. 8 Similarly, observational evidence links high dietary intake of carotenoids to a lower incidence and/or slowed progression of cataracts , macular degeneration , and osteoarthritis , 9 but again there is no reliable evidence that beta-carotene supplements are helpful for these conditions. In fact, a 12-year study of over 22,000 male physicians failed to find that beta-carotene had anyeffect on the incidence of macular degeneration. 10 Preliminary evidence raised hopes that beta-carotene supplements might increase or preserve immune function or decrease symptoms among people with HIV . 11 However, other studies found no benefit, 12 and some evidence hints that too much beta-carotene might actually be harmful. 13 Beta-carotene supplements may be helpful for protecting the skin from sunburn , particularly in people with extreme sensitivity to the sun , but the evidence regarding this potential use is somewhat contradictory. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 One double-blind trial found that faithful daily use of sunscreen was more effective at preventing sun damage to the skin than oral beta-carotene plus sunscreen used as needed. 24 One preliminary study found evidence that beta-carotene might be helpful for cystic fibrosis, by helping prevent lung infections. 25 Another preliminary study suggests that beta-carotene might help prevent exercise-induced asthma. 26 Weak evidence culled from a large double-blind, placebo-controlled study hints that use of beta-carotene over many years might enhance mental function . 27 Beta-carotene has been proposed as a treatment for alcoholism , asthma , depression , epilepsy , headaches , heartburn , male infertility , female infertility , Parkinson's disease , psoriasis , rheumatoid arthritis , and schizophrenia , but there is little to no evidence that it works.

There is some evidence that beta-carotene is noteffective for cervical dysplasia 28 or intermittent claudication . 29


  1. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J Am Diet Assoc. 96(10):1027-39.
  2. Ziegler RG. A review of epidemiologic evidence that carotenoids reduce the risk of cancer. J Nutr. 119(1):116-22.
  3. Flagg EW, Coates RJ, Greenberg RS. Epidemiologic studies of antioxidants and cancer in humans. J Am Coll Nutr. 14(5):419-27.
  4. Vena JE, Graham S, Freudenheim J, Marshall J, Zielezny M, Swanson M, Sufrin G. Diet in the epidemiology of bladder cancer in western New York. Nutr Cancer. 18(3):255-64.
  5. Rock CL, Saxe GA, Ruffin MT IV, et al. Carotenoids, vitamin A, and estrogen receptor status in breast cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1996;25:281-296.
  6. Zheng W, Sellers TA, Doyle TJ, Kushi LH, Potter JD, Folsom AR. Retinol, antioxidant vitamins, and cancers of the upper digestive tract in a prospective cohort study of postmenopausal women. Am J Epidemiol. 142(9):955-60.
  7. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1029-1035.
  8. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 297(8):842-57.
  9. Carson C, Lee S, De Paola C, et al. Antioxidant intake and cataract in the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project [abstract]. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139(11 suppl):A65.
  10. Christen WG, Manson JE, Glynn RJ, Gaziano JM, Chew EY, Buring JE, Hennekens CH. Beta carotene supplementation and age-related maculopathy in a randomized trial of US physicians. Arch Ophthalmol. 125(3):333-9.
  11. Coodley GO, Nelson HD, Loveless MO, et al. Beta-carotene in HIV infection. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1993;6:272-276.
  12. Coodley GO, Coodley MK, Lusk R, Green TR, Bakke AC, Wilson D, Wachenheim D, Sexton G, Salveson C. Beta-carotene in HIV infection: an extended evaluation. AIDS. 10(9):967-73.
  13. Tang AM, Graham NHM, Kirby AJ, et al. Dietary micronutrient intake and risk of progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected homosexual men. Am JEpidemiol. 1993;138:937-951.
  14. Krook G, Haeger-Aronsen B. beta-Carotene in the treatment of erythropoietic protoporphyria. A short review. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh). 100():125-9.
  15. Suhonen R, Plosila M. The effect of beta-carotene in combination with canthaxanthin, Ro 8-8427 (Phenoro), in treatment of polymorphous light eruptions. Dermatologica. 163(2):172-6.
  16. Corbett MF, Hawk JL, Herxheimer A, Magnus IA. Controlled therapeutic trials in polymorphic light eruption. Br J Dermatol. 107(5):571-81.
  17. Corbett MF, Herxheimer A, Magnus IA, et al. The long term treatment with beta-carotene in erythropoietic protoporphyria: a controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 1977;97:655-662.
  18. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Fitzpatrick TB, et al. Beta-carotene as an oral photoprotective agent in erythropoietic protoporphyria. JAMA. 1974;228:1004-1008.
  19. Mathews-Roth MM. Carotenoids in erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitivity diseases. Ann NY Acad Sci. 1993;691:127-138.
  20. Gollnick HP, Hopfenmuller W, Hemmes C, et al. Systemic beta carotene plus topical UV sunscreen are an optimal protection against harmful effects of natural UV-sunlight: results of the Berlin-Eilath study. Eur J Dermatol. 1996;6:200-205.
  21. Lee J, Jiang S, Levine N, Watson RR. Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 223(2):170-4.
  22. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Jungmann H, Sies H, Tronnier H. Carotenoids and carotenoids plus vitamin E protect against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 71(3):795-8.
  23. Garmyn M, Ribaya-Mercado JD, Russel RM, Bhawan J, Gilchrest BA. Effect of beta-carotene supplementation on the human sunburn reaction. Exp Dermatol. 4(2):104-11.
  24. Darlington S, Williams G, Neale R, Frost C, Green A. A randomized controlled trial to assess sunscreen application and beta carotene supplementation in the prevention of solar keratoses. Arch Dermatol. 139(4):451-5.
  25. Renner S, Rath R, Rust P, Lehr S, Frischer T, Elmadfa I, Eichler I. Effects of beta-carotene supplementation for six months on clinical and laboratory parameters in patients with cystic fibrosis. Thorax. 56(1):48-52.
  26. Neuman I, Nahum H, Ben-Amotz A. Prevention of exercise-induced asthma by a natural isomer mixture of beta-carotene. Ann Allerg Asthma Immunol. 1999;82:549-553.
  27. Grodstein F, Kang JH, Glynn RJ, Cook NR, Gaziano JM. A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men: the Physicians' Health Study II. Arch Intern Med. 167(20):2184-90.
  28. Mackerras D, Irwig L, Simpson JM, Weisberg E, Cardona M, Webster F, Walton L, Ghersi D. Randomized double-blind trial of beta-carotene and vitamin C in women with minor cervical abnormalities. Br J Cancer. 79(9-10):1448-53.
  29. Törnwall ME, Virtamo J, Haukka JK, Aro A, Albanes D, Huttunen JK. The effect of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplementation on symptoms and progression of intermittent claudication in a controlled trial. Atherosclerosis. 147(1):193-7.


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