Tags: alpha-carotene, amino acids, beta-carotene, Cancer Diseases, Cochrane Collaboration, dark green leafy vegetables, disease preventive, Good food sources, lutein, lycopene, mineral supplements, skin surface, zeaxanthin
Daily Value: None established
Good Food Sources: Sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
The evidence is overwhelming! People who eat three or more servings a day of beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and many types of cancer. However, the scientific community isn’t as enthusiastic about the effects of beta-carotene supplements.
During the early 1990s, studies sang the praises of beta-carotene-rich foods and their ability to lower the risk of cancer and other diseases. In response to those promising findings, many doctors recommended beta- carotene supplements to their patients. But in 1994, a study of 29,000 male Finnish smokers found that men who took 20 milligrams (about 33,000 IU) of beta-carotene a day actually had an increased incidence of both lung cancer and heart disease. The result was unexpected, and accolades for beta- carotene supplements died down.
Some scientists speculated that the devastating effects of alcohol and 3 decades’ worth of smoking were well under way before the study began. A poor diet and heavy drinking and smoking put these men at a higher risk of heart disease and cancer before beta-carotene supplements were handed out.
Six years later, another study called the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial, or CARET, was halted when researchers discovered that patients receiving just 30 milligrams of beta-carotene supplements a day had a 46 percent higher risk of dying from lung cancer. Since then a review of over 60 random¬ized trials, conducted by the respected Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that beta-carotene supplements significantly increased the risk of mortality.
In light of recent findings, the Institute of Medicine doesn’t believe that beta-carotene supplements are advisable for the general public (but does con¬cede that supplements may be beneficial for people with vitamin A deficien¬cies). Today doctors are understandably cautious about recommending beta-carotene supplements, especially for people who smoke and who have had high levels of asbestos exposure.
Contributing to their reluctance and caution in recommending supplements is the growing body of research showing that most foods containing beta-carotene also contain other powerful disease-fighting members of the carotenoid family such as alpha-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
In fact, some experts suspect that it may be these substances that have been doing most of the disease-preventive work while beta-carotene has been garnering all of the credit.
How To Consume It Safely ?
Most experts agree that people should be reaching for carotenoid-rich foods rather than supplements. Beta-carotene is plentiful in vegetables and fruits, and population studies have strongly suggested that eating three or more servings can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and many forms of cancer.
Too much beta-carotene in the body can turn the skin orange. The discoloration fades as levels of the nutrient return to normal.