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Beta Carotene

Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoid family of plant pigments, which are responsible for the yellow, orange and red colours of certain fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is also known as pro-vitamin A, as it is converted by the body into vitamin A. Vitamin A only occurs in animal tissues (particularly liver, fish liver and dairy products), whereas beta-carotene occurs in plant tissues (particularly carrots). In addition to being a pre-cursor of vitamin A, beta carotene is important as an antioxidant. Beta-carotene and vitamin A are required for normal growth and development, for tissue maintenance and repair, and for bone and tooth formation.

What does Beta-Carotene do?

Beta-carotene is converted in the intestinal mucosa into retinol (vitamin A). Beta-carotene is also one of the most potent antioxidants, protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, which have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a wide range of disorders. Clinical studies have shown beta-carotene to have the following benefits:

* Beta-carotene reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancers.

* Beta-carotene protects against cardiovascular disease.

* Beta ?carotene protects the skin from the effects of exposure to ultraviolet light.

* Beta-carotene promotes normal fertility.

Are there adverse effects from taking Beta-Carotene?

Beta-carotene is generally well tolerated with a very low risk of toxicity. In contrast with vitamin A(excess intake of which may cause liver damage or birth defects), it is virtually impossible to overdose with beta-carotene, as the body eliminates any of the latter substance which is surplus to requirements. No adverse effects have been reported in pregnant or lactating women taking up to 50,000IU/day. Very high doses of beta-carotene (more than 100,000IU/day) may cause areas of the skin to take on an orange tone, which is harmless. Patients with diabetes, renal or liver disease, or with hyperthyroidism should take beta-carotene with caution.

How much Beta-Carotene should you take?

The generally recommended dose for beta-carotene is 25,000IU (15mg)/day. The effects of beta-carotene/vitamin A deficiency include poor night vision, skin disorders, and increased risk of infection, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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