2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Beta-Carotene

What Is It?

Beta-carotene is probably the best known of the carotenoids, those red, orange, and yellow pigments that give color to many fruits and vegetables. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, a nutrient first identified in the 1930s and now recognized as vital to the growth and development of the human body.

As a potent immune-system booster and a powerful antioxidant–it counters the effects of cell-damaging molecules called free-radicals–beta-carotene has an important role to play in human health.

Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to supply your body with beta-carotene. In addition, beta-carotene is now sold in supplement form.

Scientists have long hoped that supplements could provide concentrated sources of beta-carotene and thus provide increased protection against heart disease and even against certain cancers. Recent findings, however, indicate that single, high-dose beta-carotene supplements may actually do more harm than good–possibly increasing (rather than decreasing) the number of cell-damaging free-radicals in the body.

Until more information is available, it’s probably wise to get beta-carotene in supplement form only as part of a mixed complex, along with other health-promoting carotenoids. Look for products that combine beta-carotene with other carotenes such as alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin.

Health Benefits

In addition to the numerous studies on beta-carotene’s effectiveness for heart disease and cancer, researchers have been exploring the nutrient’s potential for treating chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, male infertility, and psoriasis. Interestingly, low levels of beta-carotene and other antioxidants have been linked to the development of cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that impairs vision.

And preliminary studies point to a possible connection between too little beta-carotene (along with low levels of vitamins A and E) and subsequent development of lupus, an autoimmune disorder.

Specifically, beta-carotene, when taken in a comprehensive antioxidant program may help to:

Guard against heart disease. Beta-carotene may have a role to play in staving off heart disease, apparently a function of its ability to keep harmful LDL cholesterol from damaging the heart and coronary arteries. In a preliminary study done in 1982 of more than 300 doctors taking part in the Harvard University Physicians’ Health Study, researchers found that ingesting 50 mg (85,000 IU) of beta-carotene daily cut in half the subsequent risk of risk of heart attack or stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease. However, subsequent studies using beta-carotene alone and involving larger numbers of participants were not able to duplicate these results. It’s possible that to directly benefit the heart, beta-carotene must be taken along with other antioxidants. Or it must be consumed through vegetables or fruits; these plant foods provide antioxidants, dietary fiber, folate, and a host of other heart-healthy compounds that have yet to be fully understood.

Interestingly, in a follow-up to the Harvard study published in 2001 and involving more than 15,000 male physicians, investigators found that a high intake of vegetables rich in beta-carotene made a big difference on heart health. Participants who consumed at least two and a half servings of vegetables a day over the 12-year study were far less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who consumed less than one vegetable serving a day.

Prevent certain cancers. Beta-carotene’s antioxidant actions make it valuable in protecting against, and in some cases even reversing, precancerous conditions affecting the breast, mucous membranes, throat, mouth, stomach, prostate, colon, cervix, and bladder. To provide anti-cancer actions, however, beta-carotene must be taken as part of an antioxidant supplement formula featuring other carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and selenium. In fact, large studies indicate that beta-carotene taken as a single supplement offers no cancer-protective actions at all.

To confuse matters, an increased risk for lung cancer has actually been linked to beta-carotene supplements in smokers. In one highly publicized study, researchers in Finland found that more cases of lung cancer developed in male smokers (including former smokers) who were taking high doses of the supplement, particularly those who smoked 20 cigarettes or more a day.

Several factors were considered responsible for this finding. Smokers typically have low levels of vitamin C, for example, which–when combined with an excess of beta-carotene–creates an imbalance that may result in an increase (rather than decrease) in the formation of cell-damaging free radicals.

In treating cancer with chemotherapy or radiation–both of which can damage healthy cells as they attack cancer cells–beta-carotene taken with other carotenoids, such as lycopene, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, may help to protect the body.

Recommended Intake

No RDA has yet been established for beta-carotene, but about 10,000 IU of this nutrient fulfills the RDA for vitamin A.

If You Get Too Little

Symptoms of a beta-carotene deficiency mimic those of a vitamin A deficiency: dry skin, night blindness, susceptibility to infection. Such deficiencies are seldom seen, however, even in people who don’t eat fruits or vegetables or take supplements, because so many other foods supply the nutrient.

If You Get Too Much

It is nearly impossible to overdose on beta-carotene because the body excretes what it doesn’t need. However, if you ingest high levels of beta-carotene from foods (such as carrot juice) or supplements, the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet may turn orange. If this occurs, consult your doctor. In most cases, the coloration is harmless and will gradually fade if you reduce your beta-carotene intake.

How to Take It

Special tips: –By far the best source of beta-carotene is fresh fruits and vegetables. Excellent sources include carrots, cantaloupe, and myriad other yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables. Green vegetables are also a good source. Choose dark ones such as broccoli, romaine lettuce, and spinach; the darker color indicates a higher beta-carotene content.

–In terms of supplements, the most effective and economical way to take beta-carotene is as part of a formula containing other significant health-promoting carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. Many products supply these carotenoids in one pill.

As part of a program to prevent heart disease, cancer, and other conditions associated with free-radical damage: Take one dose daily of a mixed-carotenoid supplement that provides 25,000 IU vitamin A activity. If you are at particularly increased risk for heart disease or cancer, or are trying to minimize the effects of cancer treatment on healthy cells, consider increasing your dose to two mixed-carotenoid pills daily.

Guidelines for Use

Take beta-carotene and all other carotenoid supplements with food.

General Interaction

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with beta-carotene.

Cautions

If you have a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism), liver or kidney disease, or an eating disorder, consult your doctor before trying beta-carotene supplements.

Many experts caution smokers to avoid beta-carotene supplements. The supplements are even riskier for smokers who also drink significant amounts of alcohol.

If you ingest high levels of beta-carotene from either foods or supplements, the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet may turn orange. If this occurs, consult your doctor. In most cases, the coloration is harmless and will gradually fade if you reduce the amount of beta-carotene you’re taking.

For product recommendations and orders from the Natural Apothecary click here  or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • The Flu Shot: Now More Important Than Ever

    When it comes to the flu shot, I take a far more conventional approach than many WholeHealth Chicago patients expect of a doctor who considers himself alternative/integrative. It’s also worth noting that after reviewing some of the online advice warning people away from the flu shot, it’s my sense that this is frequently followed by “…and this is my product you can buy instead.” So Read More

  • Lyme Disease In Your Nervous System: Three Cases

    “Why am I limiting this to only three cases?” I wondered. Physicians who treat Lyme, like our group at WholeHealth Chicago where we see a lot of Lyme disease patients, would tell you there are so many manifestations of Lyme when it invades the nervous system that I really should list as many as possible. But to keep this Health Tip manageable, we’ll keep it Read More

  • The Heartburn That Wouldn’t Quit

    Dierdre had written “I want to get off my heartburn medicine” on her WholeHealth Chicago intake form. This, by the way, was a tele-med appointment. I’ve actually never met her in person. We changed Dierdre’s name to respect her privacy, but her story is worth sharing. Dierdre was in her 30s and had been working at home at one of the many jobs people can Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!