Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoid family and has over 500 relatives. Carotenoids are yellow-to-red pigments found in all green plant tissues and insome species of algae. So far 21 different carotenoids have been found in humanblood. The most abundant ones are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein,lycopene, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin.
A molecule of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, or cryptoxanthin can be split into two molecules of vitamin A in thebody but the conversion of beta-carotene is by far the most effective. The sixcarotenoids are all antioxidants. They are very effective in neutralizing ahighly reactive for of oxygen called singlet oxygen but also, to some extent,act to break up the chain reactions involved in lipid peroxidation. Numerousstudies have shown that people who consume a diet rich in dark yellow orangevegetables (carrots) and dark green vegetables (broccoli) are much less likelyto develop cancer and heart disease. It has also been established that peoplewith low levels of beta-carotene in their blood have a higher incidence of heartdisease and cancer, particularly lung cancer.
The National Cancer Instituteendorsed a study which found that women who consume lots of beta-carotene richfruits and vegetables have a lower chance of getting cancer, including breastcancer. The Institution says that regularly eating lots of fruits andvegetables plays a key roll in cancer prevention, but whether the preventativeaction comes from beta-carotene or other nutrients in the produce has yet to bedetermined. For people who don’t like eating their fruits and vegetables, abeta-carotene supplement pill was introduced into the market. Millions ofvegetable hating Americans hoped that by taking a pill instead of eatingvegetables, they could get the same rewards as their counterparts who enjoy thetaste of fruits and vegetables. But officials at the National Cancer Institutereleased the results of two large studies designed to put the benefits of beta-carotene supplements to the test.
One followed 22,071 doctors who for 12 yearssmokers had to be stopped prematurely because it seemed to me making the rate ofdeath from cancer and heart disease worse. Taking a simple chemical supplementis not the same as eating a vegetable. Scientists suspect there are othernatural ingredients that work with vitamins to promote health. It is alsopossible that a beta-carotene supplement derived from natural sources andformulated so as to preserve the normal carotene ratio in the blood may be ofbenefit for people at high risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.
This,however, needs to proven. So, until the remaining riddles in the carotenepuzzle are solved, the prudent course of action is to avoid smoking and exposureto second-hand smoke and to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits. In1981 it was suggested that beta-carotene is the active component in theprotective vegetables and that supplementing with beta-carotene might preventcertain cancers. The idea was based on the fact that took 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day. Another involved 18,314 smokers, ex-smokers, andasbestos workers. Not only did beta carotene produce no measurable healthbenefits, but the study of beta-carotene is an antioxidant and the most abundantcarotenoid in vegetables.
There was also considerable evidence to the effectthat vitamin A prevents or retards certain cancers, so that beta-carotene isreadily converted to vitamin A in the liver and intestine was seen as an addedbonus. More recent research suggests that beta-carotene’s prevention effect isdue to its antioxidant property rather than to its ability to form vitamin A. People need to learn to take a little bit of time to eat good, healthy foodsinstead of relying on pills. I feel that more people need to be educated aboutwhat beta carotene can do for you. If more people ate enough beta-carotene,maybe doctors would have less patients to treat.
Beta-Carotene really can helpprevent a lot of diseases. It’s almost like a natural life-saver. Now Iunderstand why my parents are always telling me to “eat my vegetables, they aregood for you. “SOURCES1. “Beta-Carotene: A Nugget of Nutritional Gold. “, Marilyn Carnell, Ph.
D. , R. DBetter Homes and Gardens,October 1992: 64-66. 2. “Beta No More”, Christine Gorman.
Time Magazine, Jan. 29, 1996: pg. 66. 3.
Peto , R, et al. Can dietary beta-carotene materially reduce human cancerrates? Nature, Vol. 290, March 19, 1981, pp. 201-208.Category: Science