Introduction

Beta-carotene is a red-orange compound found in fruits and vegetables. The body turns it into vitamin A. Beta-carotene has been used to help the body fight illness. It has also been used as an antioxidant to help slow damage to cells. Beta-carotene can be taken as a pill or powder.

Dosages

5 to 15 milligrams once per day

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

Beta-carotene may help:

  • Cataract —may lower risk C1
  • Dementia —may lower risk when dietary intake is increased along with vitamins C and E G1
  • Hip fracture —may lower risk J1
  • Macular degeneration —may slow disease when taken with vitamins C, E, and zinc L1, L2
  • Sunburn —may provide protection O1

Unlikely to Be Effective

Beta-carotene does not appear to be effective for:

  • Cancer prevention —unlikely to prevent certain types of cancer A1-A7
  • Cardiovascular disease —unlikely to prevent B1, B2
  • Liver disease —unlikely to help treat liver diseases K1
  • Pregnancy outcomes —unlikely to lower the risk of birth problems M1

Not Enough Data to Assess

There is not enough information to show if beta-carotene is or is not effective for:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease D1
  • Cognitive function E1, E2
  • Cystic fibrosis F1
  • Diabetes H1
  • Endometrial cancer I1
  • Thyroid cancer P1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe for most people to take beta-carotene in small doses for a short time, but it may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, and other health problems in smokers and people with a history of asbestos exposure.N1-N7 Large amounts of beta-carotene should not be taken, especially by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Smokers and people with a history of asbestos exposure should not use beta-carotene. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe for others to use for a long period.

Interactions

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.

 

References

A. Cancer

A1. Jiang L, Yang KH, et al. Efficacy of antioxidant vitamins and selenium supplement in prostate cancer prevention: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(6):719-727.

A2. Jeon YJ, Myung SK, et al. Effects of beta-carotene supplements on cancer prevention: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Cancer. 2011 Nov;63(8):1196-1207.

A3. Cortés-Jofré M, Rueda JR, et al. Drugs for preventing lung cancer in healthy people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD002141.

A4. Pais R, Dumitraşcu DL. Do antioxidants prevent colorectal cancer? A meta-analysis. Rom J Intern Med. 2013 Jul-Dec;51(3-4):152-163.

A5. Fortmann SP, Burda BU, et al. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: An updated systematic evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Dec 17;159(12):824-834.

A6. Leoncini E, Nedovic D, et al. Carotenoid Intake from Natural Sources and Head and Neck Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Epidemiological Studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Jul;24(7):1003-1011.

A7. Park SJ, Myung SK, et al. Effects of Vitamin and Antioxidant Supplements in Prevention of Bladder Cancer: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Korean Med Sci. 2017 Apr;32(4):628-635.

B. Cardiovascular Disease

B1. Fortmann SP, Burda BU, et al. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: An updated systematic evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Dec 17;159(12):824-834.

B2. Ye Y, Li J, Yuan Z. Effect of antioxidant vitamin supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56803.

C. Cataracts

C1. Wang A, Han J, et al. Association of vitamin A and β-carotene with risk for age-related cataract: a meta-analysis. Nutrition. 2014 Oct;30(10):1113-1121.

D. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

D1. Tsiligianni IG, van der Molen T. A systematic review of the role of vitamin insufficiencies and supplementation in COPD. Respir Res. 2010 Dec 6;11:171.

E. Cognitive Function

E1. Butler M, Nelson VA, et al. Over-the-Counter Supplement Interventions to Prevent Cognitive Decline, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Clinical Alzheimer-Type Dementia: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Jan 2;168(1):52-62.

E2. Rutjes AW, Denton DA, et al. Vitamin and mineral supplementation for maintaining cognitive function in cognitively healthy people in mid and late life. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Dec 17;12:CD011906.

F. Cystic Fibrosis

F1. F1. de Vries JJ, Chang AB, et al. Vitamin A and beta (β)-carotene supplementation for cystic fibrosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Aug 9;8:CD006751.

Dementia

G1. Li FJ, Shen L, et al. Dietary intakes of vitamin E, vitamin C, and β-carotene and risk of Alzheimer's disease: a meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;31(2):253-258.

H. Diabetes

H1. Asemi Z, Alizadeh SA, et al. Effects of beta-carotene fortified symbiotic food on metabolic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A double-blind randomized cross-over controlled clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2016;35(4):819-825.

I. Endometrial Cancer

I1. Bandera EV, Gifkins DM, et al. Antioxidant vitamins and the risk of endometrial cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Jul;20(5):699-711.

J. Hip Fracture

J1. Xu J, Song C, et al. Carotenoids and risk of fracture: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Oncotarget. 2017 Jan 10;8(2):2391-2399.

K. Liver Disease

K1. Bjelakovic G, Gluud LL, et al. Antioxidant supplements for liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Mar 16;(3):CD007749.

L. Macular Degeneration

L1. Sin HP, Liu DT, et al. Lifestyle modification, nutritional and vitamins supplements for age-related macular degeneration. Acta Ophthalmol. 2013 Feb;91(1):6-11.

L2. Evans JR, Lawrenson JG. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for preventing age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 30;7:CD000253.

M. Pregnancy Outcomes

M1. Thorne-Lyman AL, Fawzi WW. Vitamin A and carotenoids during pregnancy and maternal, neonatal and infant health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2012 Jul;26 Suppl 1:36-54.

N. Safety

N1. Rapola JM, Virtamo J, et al. Randomised trial of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplements on incidence of major coronary events in men with previous myocardial infarction. Lancet. 1997 Jun 14;349(9067):1715-1720.

N2. Heinonen OP, Albanes D, et al. Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Mar 18;90(6):440-446.

N3. Leppälä JM, Virtamo J, et al. Controlled trial of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplements on stroke incidence and mortality in male smokers. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Jan;20(1):230-235.

N4. Leppälä JM, Virtamo J, et al. Vitamin E and beta carotene supplementation in high risk for stroke: a subgroup analysis of the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Arch Neurol. 2000 Oct;57(10):1503-1509.

N5. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, et al. Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2007 Feb 28;297(8):842-857.

N6. Druesne-Pecollo N, Latino-Martel P, et al. Beta-carotene supplementation and cancer risk: a systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Cancer. 2010 Jul 1;127(1):172-184.

N7. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, et al. Meta-regression analyses, meta-analyses, and trial sequential analyses of the effects of supplementation with beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E singly or in different combinations on all-cause mortality: do we have evidence for lack of harm? PLoS One. 2013 Sep 6;8(9):e74558.

O. Sunburn

O1. Köpcke W, Krutmann J. Protection from sunburn with beta-Carotene--a meta-analysis. Photochem Photobiol. 2008 Mar-Apr;84(2):284-8. Epub 2007 Dec 15. PubMed PMID: 18086246.

P. Thyroid Cancer

P1. Zhang LR, Sawka AM, et al. Vitamin and mineral supplements and thyroid cancer: a systematic review. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Mar;22(2):158-168.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 9/9/2019