What Is the Difference Between Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene?


Quick Answer

The difference between vitamin A and beta carotene is that vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, while beta carotene is a carotenoid found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, states MedlinePlus. However, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, providing approximately 50 percent of the vitamin A in the American diet.

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Full Answer

Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products like meat, eggs and cheese, while pro-vitamin A is found in plant-based foods, with beta carotene being the most common carotenoid, according to MedlinePlus. Vitamin A is essential in forming and maintaining the health of teeth, skeletal tissue, skin and soft tissue. Vitamin A is also referred to as retinol, as it is the active form of vitamin A and produces the pigment found in the retina of the eyes. People who do not get enough vitamin A in the diet are at risk of developing eye problems and can cause dry scaly skin, but too much vitamin A can cause birth defects and lead to illness.

Beta carotene, which is found in food, is also made in laboratories, explains MedlinePlus. Beta carotene is used for a wide range of health problems including reducing the risk of death in malnourished pregnant women, to treat asthma, and reduce the risk of sunburn. The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society suggest that it is best to get beta carotene from foods rather than supplements, as the effectiveness of supplements is not known.

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