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What is beta-carotene?

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Quick Answer

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids are converted to vitamin A, an essential nutrient for humans, according to MedlinePlus. Carotenoids are red, orange and yellow plant pigments that also are antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage. Beta-carotene is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains naturally, and it can be synthesized.

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What is beta-carotene?
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Full Answer

Beta-carotene is effective in treating people with the inherited disease erythropoietic protoporphyria by reducing the risk of sunburn, notes MedlinePlus. Beta-carotene might be effective in treating other conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, exercise-caused asthma symptoms, osteoarthritis and breast cancer. It might be effective in reducing childbirth complications, such as diarrhea and fever, in malnourished women. Some conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are effectively treated by beta-carotene that is consumed through diet, rather than in supplement form.

Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble compound considered to be a provitamin because it is easily converted in the body to active vitamin A, explains Mayo Clinic. Beta-carotene in supplement form is either manufactured in a laboratory or extracted from palm oil, algae or fungi.

Because beta-carotene converts to retinol, a form of vitamin A that is essential for vision, some health care providers recommend beta-carotene to patients with night blindness or other eye conditions, according to Mayo Clinic.

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