Beta-carotene – a plant source of vitamin A not only for our eyes and skin

Beta-carotene – a plant source of vitamin A not only for our eyes and skin

Beta-carotene is a pigment needed to produce vitamin A, which is useful for its antioxidant properties, but also to support healthy eyes and skin. You can supplement its level from the diet or in the form of supplements. Read about the sources of beta-carotene and its significance for the human body.

Beta-carotene – what exactly is it?

Beta-carotene is essentially a carotenoid a color pigment found in some vegetables or fruits. Do you like colorful fruits? Many salads and dishes are more appealing for their distinctive colors. Pigments are beneficial to health and, in addition to chlorophyll or anthocyanins, carotenoids are also important. [2] [3]

Beta-carotene - what exactly is it?

Beta-carotene is one of the carotenoids and has an orange-yellow color. There are about 700 different carotenoids in nature. About 10% of them are found in the human diet, while about 20 carotenoids were found in mammalian plasma and tissues. Major plasma carotenoids include beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, or alpha-carotene. The name beta-carotene comes from the combination of the Greek word “beta” and the Latin “carota” (carrot). H. Wachenroder, who established this indication, first isolated it from carrots in 1831. Beta-carotene was isolated as early as the 19th century, but its chemical formula – C40H56 was discovered a little later in 1907. However, so that you do not think that it is only found in carrots, other vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes or kale, also contains this pigment. [4] [5] [7]

Beta-carotene and vitamin A

Beta-carotene intake is important for humans because the body converts it to vitamin A – retinol. It is a precursor of vitamin A, which has two forms in the human body [4] [6]:

  • pre-prepared vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters)

  • provitamin A (carotenoids, such as beta-carotene)

Vitamin A is an important micronutrient because it supports eye and vision health, the immune system, but also, for example, healthy skin. You can take pre-prepared vitamin A from fortified foods, animal products or nutritional supplements. Carotenoids are a natural part of plants, but you can also find them in the form of supplements. Beta-carotene, unlike vitamin A, is not an essential nutrient. Speaking of vitamin A, its intake should be guarded because its excessive amount can be toxic to the body. The benefit of beta-carotene in the diet is associated with this, because the organism converts it to vitamin A only in the amount it needs. [4] [6]


Eat carrots to see better

I don’t know about you, but as a child, I had my eyesight all right. However, I ate carrots honestly because I was afraid that without it, I would be wearing “huge” glasses when I grow up. You must have encountered this statement. Well, it’s not complete nonsense, because beta-carotene in carrots is necessary for the right level of vitamin A, which supports the proper functioning of eyesight. I hope that none of you, as a child, expected that after eating a pound of carrots, you would drop your glasses and could see anywhere, or could make a hole in the door with your sight. [6]

carrot beta-carotene

Benefits of taking beta-carotene

Antioxidant properties of beta-carotene

The inclusion of antioxidants in the diet and their popularization is not just a commercial hype. Free radicals and oxidation of molecules can be the cause of several chronic diseases. Oxidative stress is not a fiction and its high levels can lead to the development of chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. Antioxidants are considered to be substances with the ability to reduce the oxidation of molecules, and carotenoids, including beta-carotene, belong to them. They can be useful in neutralizing potential damage of lipids in cell membranes, proteins and DNA by free radicals. Several studies have confirmed that the intake of antioxidants has a positive effect on promoting immunity against oxidative stress. [14] [15] 

beta-carotene antioxidant

Beta-carotene is the flagship of carotenoids, but lycopene is consumed in the United States in approximately the same amounts as beta-carotene. Not only beta-carotene alone, but also mixtures of carotenoids or the combination with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can increase their effect against free radicals. As many as 3 out of 4 intervention studies did not prove a protective function of beta-carotene supplements against cardiovascular disease or cancer. We deal with these two diseases in connection with beta-carotene separately in the next subchapter. In any case, it can be argued that dietary carotenoids have a positive effect, but not at high doses in people exposed to asbestos and smokers. [16]

Beta-carotene and vision

We have already talked about the legend associated with carrots and good eyesight. The effects of beta-carotene on eye health have been the subject of several studies. The 2016 study concludes that increased carotenoid intake reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In addition, the results of the 2017 study point to the fact that higher intake of vegetables and fruits containing not only beta-carotene, but also alpha carotene and vitamin C, may also have a protective effect against AMD in smokers. AMD is an abbreviation for an eye disease that causes blurred vision, for example when reading. It is the main cause of vision loss in humans over 50 years. Consuming carrots and similar vegetables and fruits will not give you “clairvoyant” abilities, but you can support the vitality of your eyes at an advanced age. [1] [17] [18] [19]

Beta-carotene and vision

Beta-carotene and skin

Adequate intake of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, is beneficial for healthy skin. It can protect against allergies to the sun. It is a reaction of skin exposed to sunlight. You will often recognize it by red rashes, swelling or itching. To be precise, this is an allergy to ultraviolet radiation, which usually occurs at the beginning of the tanning season. If you don’t know it, be happy, 10 to 15% of the Nordic population has problems with this type of allergy. [10] [11] 

What does beta carotene have to do with sun allergies? The human body can protect itself from the effects of UV rays from the sun with its pigment, called melanin. In addition to a beautiful tan, melanin also has a protective function. “The bronze pigment” protects the skin from harmful parts in the sun’s rays. Beta-carotene has the ability to protect against sun allergies due to an increase in melanin production. It indirectly follows that carrots are not only beneficial to the proper functioning of the eyes, but also for a beautiful tan and avoiding rashes from the sun. [10]

Beta-carotene and skin

Beta-carotene and cognitive functions

The effect of beta-carotene on cognitive function is not particularly remarkable, but it is worth mentioning. It is presented in an overview of studies from 2018, which was based on 8 studies focused on the effect of antioxidants on cognitive functions. It points out the small importance of beta-carotene in use over 18 years (we are not talking about age, but the duration of supplementation), but it also has a certain seriousness. Systematic supplementation of antioxidants can also support the fight against worsening of the cognitive impairment. [1] [20] 

You might be interested in these products:

Other benefits of beta-carotene

Research is not only focused on the importance of beta-carotene in improving the quality of eyes, skin and its antioxidant properties. The 2016 study also provides an overview of other examined potential effects and benefits of carotenoids on the human body [21]:

  • Type 2 diabetes – a diet rich in beta and alpha-carotene is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Insulin sensitivity – beta-carotene has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity in obese people, which may include positive regulation of adiponectin.

  • Lead poisoning – The antioxidant properties of beta-carotene are important in the treatment of lead poisoning.

  • Decreased cholesterol absorption – beta carotene has been shown to reduce intestinal cholesterol absorption and its higher excretion in the faeces.

  • Slowing the course of atherosclerosis carotenoids in a diet high in 9-cis-β-carotene are beneficial in slowing the course of atherosclerosis, especially in a high-fat diet.

  • Effects on liver damage – The use of beta-carotene in the form of a nutritional supplement is useful in preventing liver damage due to ethanol.

  • Potential anticancer effects – beta-carotene has been shown to affect the microenvironment” of the tumor.

Beta-carotene, heart disease and lung cancer

Beta-carotene is important for several processes in the human body, but it is not a panacea with which you can defeat every disease. An example is the results of a 1996 clinical study studying the effects of the combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A as the prevention of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to the conclusions, the approximately four-year supplementation was of no significance. It could even have a negative impact on smokers and workers exposed to asbestos and could have caused them to die from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease or other reasons. Unfortunately, beta-carotene supplements cannot be used to prevent lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Especially for smokers. [12] [13] 

beta-carotene and smoking

Sources of beta-carotene

Beta-carotene can be found in fruits, vegetables with yellow, orange and red colors. It is soluble in fat and its consumption with fat improves its absorption. It is even scientifically proven that you can take more carotenoids from boiled carrots than from raw ones. This does not mean that you should cook carrots every time, but if you are trying to take more beta-carotene, try adding a “drop” of oil to the carrots. The highest beta-carotene content can be found in the following foods [1]:

  • carrot

  • broccoli

  • spinach

  • kale

  • apricots

  • cantaloupe melon

  • peas

what does beta-carotene contain

In addition to fruits and vegetables, beta-carotene is also found in several spices and herbs. You can also increase its intake by consuming chili, parsley, coriander, peppers or sage. [1]

Of course, beta-carotene is also available in the form of nutritional supplements.

Recommended doses of beta-carotene

The recommended daily doses of other minerals and vitamins are generally known. It is not that simple with beta-carotene. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board have not established recommended daily intakes of beta-carotene and other carotenoids. The reason is the lack of existing evidence for its determination. Vitamin A may be toxic to humans, but beta-carotene is considered safe. According to the available evidence, 20 mg daily and more beta-carotene supplementation is not recommended for smokers. The ideal way to take beta-carotene is, of course, diet, but supplements are also a practical source of this important nutrient. In the case of nutritional supplements, we recommend following the recommended doses set by the manufacturer. [8] [9]

Negatives and side effects of beta-carotene

In addition to the benefits, it is important to point out the possible negatives of beta-carotene use. The sign of overdosing with the beta-carotene from nutritional supplements may be a yellowing of the hands, palms and feet. Rarely it includes joint pain, dizziness, diarrhea, or unusual bleeding and bruising. In case of persistent side effects, it is advisable to see your doctor. Increased intake of vitamin A or synthesized retinoids is associated with congenital disorders. Therefore, it is not recommended for pregnant women to take high doses of vitamin A as a supplement[22] [23]

Beta-carotene is an important nutrient whose intake from food or supplements is important for humans. It has antioxidant effects, promotes skin and eye health, but also other benefits. In any case, it is important to follow the recommended daily dose for the supplemental form. We hope you have learned everything you need to know about beta-carotene in the article. Do you want your friends to know about beta-carotene and its significance? Feel free to support the article by sharing.


[1] Natalie Olsen, R.D., L.D., ACSM EP-C – Benefits of Beta Carotene and How to Get It –

[2] Alyssa Ochs – What Is Beta Carotene, Its Benefits, and How to Get More in Your Diet –


[4] Tim Newman – All you need to know about beta carotene –

[5] Justine Butler – Vitamin A (beta carotene) –

[6] Vitamin A –

[7] Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on the safety of use of beta carotene from all dietary sources –

[8] Dr Peter Engel – Beta-Carotene Intake Recommendations –

[9] Dr Peter Engel – Beta-Carotene Safety –


[11] Overview –

[12] Susan Taylor Mayne - Beta‐carotene, carotenoids, and disease prevention in humans –

[13] G S Omenn, G E Goodman, M D Thornquist, J Balmes, M R Cullen, A Glass, J P Keogh, F L Meyskens, B Valanis, J H Williams, S Barnhart, S Hammar – Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease –

[14] Tim Newman – All you need to know about beta carotene –

[15] Dr Peter Engel – Beta-Carotene Benefits – Beta-Carotene Benefits –

[16] S A Paiva, R M Russell – Beta-carotene and other carotenoids as antioxidants –

[17] Juan Wu, MS, Eunyoung Cho, ScD, Walter C. Willett, MD, MPH, DrPH, Srinivas M. Sastry, MD, MPH, and Debra A. Schaumberg, ScD, OD, MPH – Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up –

[18] Eun-kyung Kim, Hyesook Kim, Aswathy Vijayakumar, Oran Kwon, Namsoo Chang – Associations between fruit and vegetable, and antioxidant nutrient intake and age-related macular degeneration by smoking status in elderly Korean men –

[19] Age-Related Macular Degeneration –

[20] Anne WS Rutjes, David A Denton, Marcello Di Nisio, Lee‐Yee Chong, Rajesh P Abraham, Aalya S Al‐Assaf, John L Anderson, Muzaffar A Malik, Robin WM Vernooij, Gabriel Martínez, Naji Tabet, Jenny McCleery – Vitamin and mineral supplementation for maintaining cognitive function in cognitively healthy people in mid and late life –

[21] Jae Kwang Kim – An update on the potential health benefits of carotenes –

[22] Beta-carotene Side Effects –

[23] Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD – Beta-Carotene Side Effects –

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *