Beta-carotene: Friend or Foe to Your Body

beta-carotene-friend-or-foeBeta-carotene is a carotenoid that gives carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich colors. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is a crucial nutrient for the body. Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy skin, hair, mucus membranes, and soft tissue.According to the Mayo Clinic, several studies have shown beta-carotene’s promise in treating oral lesions and sun burn. You can find beta-carotene in a number of plants, including sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins. You can also take beta-carotene supplements.

The Controversies Associated with Beta-carotene

There has been some controversy due to several studies that have shown adverse effects with beta-carotene intake. Some studies, including the famous Finland study in 1994, have indicated that a high intake of beta carotene could be linked with an increased risk of lung cancer for current and former smokers and those exposed to asbestos.

This is due to higher cell proliferation, which can cause lung cancer. However, the increased risk for lung cancer only occurred in patients who were taking beta-carotene supplements. Ingesting beta-carotene from whole foods did not cause any further lung damage.

Another study from Ohio State University actually may have provided evidence on why heavy smokers saw an increased risk of lung cancer when taking beta-carotene supplements. Researchers determined that molecules derived from the beta-carotene supplements were actually blocking the formation of Vitamin A.

Additionally, there were several flaws with these studies. For example, in the study carried out in Finland and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, participants were given only 1/8th to 1/40th the dosage of Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps lower lung cancer risk. Finally, the study took place soon after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and Finland experienced heavy fallout.
So Is Beta-carotene Safe?

Unless taken at the level tested in the aforementioned studies, then yes. Beta-carotene derived from whole plant foods combines with other carotenoids and phytochemicals to protect the body against cancer. You should aim to get your beta-carotene from real foods and not supplements.

The Hope4CancerĀ® Institute uses juicing as part of its nutritional and detoxification program. Organic raw carrot and apple juices give the body the easiest way to digest and absorb important nutrients as it fights the disease. Therefore, when taken from natural sources and not the pharmacy, beta-carotene is very safe.