Beta Carotene: A Closer Look

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Beta-carotene, the vibrant pigment giving many fruits and vegetables their rich hues, is more than just a splash of color on your plate. This plant-derived compound plays a crucial role in overall health, with a range of benefits that extend beyond its eye-catching appearance. In this article, we learn the world of beta-carotene supplements, exploring how they contribute to overall health, the science behind their impact, and what people should know before incorporating them into their wellness routine. Join us as we unravel the facts and functions of beta-carotene, shining a light on its importance in a balanced diet.

What Is Beta Carotene?

Beta-carotene is a powerful pigment found in fruits and vegetables, particularly those with bright orange, yellow, and green hues. Its significance lies in its ability to transform into vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin crucial for vision, immune function, and skin health.

A beta-carotene molecule has a structure that includes two vitamin A molecules. This means the Beta-carotene molecule gets converted into two vitamin A molecules.

When you eat foods with beta-carotene, your body converts just the amount it needs into vitamin A, making it a safe and efficient way to maintain adequate levels of this essential nutrient. This tailored conversion ensures that you reap all the health benefits associated with vitamin A, without the risks of toxicity that come from consuming too much pre-formed vitamin A.

Understanding this chemical relationship between beta-carotene and vitamin A helps clarify why beta-carotene is so often touted for its health benefits. It serves as a natural, self-regulating source of an essential vitamin, giving your body the building blocks it needs to support crucial physiological functions.

What Are the Benefits of Beta-Carotene?

  • Supports vision health: Beta-carotene plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision as it is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for the proper functioning of the retina and the prevention of conditions like night blindness. The research underscores the importance of beta-carotene supplementation in supporting optimal eye health. PMC9550496
  • Promotes skin health: Beta-carotene supplements have been shown to improve skin health and offer protection against harmful UV radiation. Studies, including those cited in [PMID: 33955073] and [PMID: 20516658], demonstrate the potential benefits of beta-carotene in preventing photoaging and repairing damage caused by sun exposure. Regular intake of beta-carotene can contribute to healthier, more resilient skin.
  • Acts as an antioxidant: Beta-carotene functions as a potent antioxidant, scavenging harmful free radicals in the body and reducing oxidative stress. This antioxidant activity helps protect cells and tissues from damage, possibly lowering the risk of chronic diseases. Research, confirms the antioxidant properties of beta-carotene and its role in promoting overall health. PMID: 10511324 , PMC9150880
  • May improve cognitive function: Preliminary studies suggest that beta-carotene supplementation may support cognitive function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. While further research is needed to fully understand the extent of its effects, findings from studies indicate a potential link between beta-carotene intake and cognitive health. Incorporating beta-carotene into your diet may contribute to maintaining cognitive function as you age. PMC10605009

When Can Beta Carotene Be Harmful?

Taking beta-carotene supplements can actually increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers, according to multiple studies. This is a significant concern that contradicts the idea that antioxidants like beta-carotene universally reduce cancer risk. Due to this, smokers and those with a history of heavy smoking should generally avoid taking beta-carotene supplements. Other people who should steer clear of these supplements include those who consume alcohol excessively and persons with a history of asbestos exposure. As for side effects, too much beta-carotene can lead to carotenodermia, a condition that turns the skin yellow-orange.

…cigarettes smoking was shown to be a risk behavior associated with increased cardiovascular incidence and mortality in the β-carotene intervention group. In sum, the evidence of this study demonstrated that β-carotene supplementation had no beneficial effects on CVD incidence and potential harmful effects on CVD mortality

β-Carotene Supplementation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review PMC8950884

β-Carotene supplementation has no beneficial or harmful effect on cancer incidence; moreover, it might have harmful effects on lung cancer, especially for people who smoke. On the basis of the evidence from this study, supplemental intake of β-carotene is not recommended for preventing cancer, and the establishment of a tolerable upper intake level of β-carotene should be considered

Association between β-carotene supplementation and risk of cancer: a meta-analysis [PMID: 36715090]

Food Sources of Beta Carotene

Food SourceAmount of Beta-Carotene per Serving
Carrots8,285 μg per 1 medium carrot
Sweet Potatoes9,189 μg per 1/2 cup
Spinach5,626 μg per 1/2 cup cooked
Kale9,577 μg per 1 cup raw
Butternut Squash11,155 μg per 1/2 cup cooked
Cantaloupe3,219 μg per 1/2 medium melon
Red Bell Peppers2,105 μg per 1 medium pepper
Apricots1,096 μg per 1 fruit
Broccoli567 μg per 1/2 cup cooked

Is Beta Carotene Safe?

Beta-carotene is safe when consumed as part of a regular diet. This compound, which the body converts into vitamin A, is essential for maintaining good vision, skin health, and immune function. Unlike preformed vitamin A, beta-carotene does not pose a risk of toxicity, even when consumed in higher amounts found in food, as the body efficiently regulates its conversion to vitamin A. Numerous studies have shown that a diet rich in beta-carotene is beneficial and poses no significant health risks, highlighting its role as a safe and valuable nutrient in a balanced diet.

Medication Interactions with Beta Carotene

  • Statins (Cholesterol-Lowering Medications): Beta-carotene may reduce the effectiveness of statins. People taking these medications might need to monitor their beta-carotene intake.
  • Orlistat (Weight Loss Medication): This medication can reduce the absorption of beta-carotene from the gut, possibly leading to lower levels in the body.
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants (Used for Lowering Cholesterol): Drugs like cholestyramine and colestipol can decrease the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including beta-carotene.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) and Antacids: Long-term use of PPIs and certain antacids can alter stomach acidity, could affect the absorption of beta-carotene.
  • Mineral Oil (Laxative): Regular use of mineral oil can interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like beta-carotene.
  • Retinoids (Including Isotretinoin for Acne Treatment): Concurrent use of beta-carotene with retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A, can increase the risk of vitamin A toxicity.

Supplement Interactions with Beta Carotene

  • Vitamin A Supplements: Since beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, taking it in conjunction with vitamin A supplements can increase the risk of vitamin A toxicity, especially at high doses.
  • Vitamin E Supplements: Vitamin E can enhance the absorption of beta-carotene, but high doses of vitamin E may also deplete beta-carotene levels in some cases.
  • Selenium Supplements: There is some evidence that taking beta-carotene and selenium together may reduce the effectiveness of beta-carotene or affect its antioxidant properties.
  • Zinc Supplements: Zinc, when taken in high doses, may interfere with the absorption and utilization of beta-carotene.
  • Iron Supplements: Beta-carotene may enhance the absorption of iron, particularly non-heme iron found in plant-based sources.
  • Antioxidant Formulas: When combined with other antioxidants in supplements, beta-carotene’s effectiveness and absorption may be influenced, either positively or negatively, depending on the specific formulation.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: There is some evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may affect the absorption and metabolism of beta-carotene.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplements: These are other carotenoids, and their absorption can be competitive with beta-carotene.

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Beta Carotene by DaVinci Labs

Beta Carotene is a carotenoid, which is converted in the body into Vitamin A. The product is provided in easy-to-swallow soft gel capsules.
As a dietary supplement, take 1 softgel daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

Serving Size: 1 Softgel

Amount Per Serving
Vitamin A … 7,500 mcg (100% as beta carotene)

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

To Sum It Up

Beta-carotene, a key nutrient found abundantly in fruits and vegetables, offers a spectrum of health benefits. This vibrant compound not only enhances vision and skin health but also plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. Its antioxidant properties protect cells from damage, contributing to overall health. While supplements can be a convenient way to increase beta-carotene intake, getting this nutrient from a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables ensures a balance of benefits. Remember, the journey to good health is a balance of nutrition, and beta-carotene is one valuable piece of the puzzle.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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