Beta-carotene is a phytonutrient in the carotenoid family, which also includes alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene is a provitamin A carotenoid, meaning it can be converted by the body to retinol (vitamin A).
Health Benefits of Beta Carotene
Population studies suggest that diets high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. However, four randomized controlled trials found no evidence that beta-carotene delivered in nutritional supplements was effective in preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Similarly, two randomized controlled trials found that high-dose beta-carotene supplements increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers. As with most nutrients, it is best to get beta-carotene in its natural form—from food sources.
Maximizing The Benefits
Like its other carotenoid cousins, beta-carotene is lipid soluble and best used by the body when it is cooked and eaten with a small amount of healthy fat. Research shows as little as 3-5 g of fat in a meal helps to ensure carotenoid absorption.