Beta-Carotene: Benefits & Risks With Smoking

Beta carotene(β-Carotene), with the molecular formula C40H56, is an organic compound found in many fruits and vegetables. It is primarily responsible for the pigment in orange colored fruits and vegetables, but also contributes to the pigment in red, yellow, and green colored fruits and vegetables. Though some food sources are rich in beta carotene, including cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, and palm oil, carrots are the major supplier in most diets.

Significance
Beta carotene is accepted as an essential human nutrient, especially when there is a deficiency of vitamin A, which is  needed to promote healthy vision and skin. In fact, when a vitamin A deficiency is suspected, blood tests measuring the levels of β-Carotene are often performed as a result. Without this element it would be difficult to find other sources of vitamin A, though they do exist. The deeper the orange color of a fruit or vegetable is, the more β-Carotene there is present in it, and therefore the more vitamin A there is going to be. It is believed to have antioxidant properties in addition to its provitamin A function.

Benefits
It aids in healthy skin that is able to breathe and is free from excess grime and grit. It also repairs the rods and cones found in the retina of the eye and helps with eyesight in general. When beta carotene is ingested it is broken down in the small intestine by what is called mucosa. This results in the creation of retinal, which is a soluble form of vitamin A that is then distributed through the body, but mainly into the retinas for use in repairing and maintaining healthy eyesight. In addition, studies have found that β-Carotene prevents the decline of cognitive abilities in people over time. This was done in a study of people who took in at least 50 mg every other day.

Researchs
Studies into whether or not beta carotene and vitamin A could help to prevent of decrease the risk of cancer found that it actually increases the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers or those people who have been exposed to asbestos. If you are a smoker, do not take its supplements and try to limit the amount you eat in general. Try to find a good source of vitamin A from somewhere else.

Warnings
Beta-carotene
(CAS: 7235-40-7), like most other nutritional substances, can be obtained in adequate amounts by eating a well-balanced, healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables. However, a doctor may recommend β-Carotene supplements for certain patients. Besides the increase risk of cancer in smokers, too much amount can also result in carotenemia or carotenodermia. This is a mostly harmless disease, though it can be a precursor to more dangerous conditions. This causes a yellowing of the skin, and has been debated as a myth in the past, though it has been proven to be a result of eating an abundance of carrots, which are very high in this nutritional supplement.