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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.


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:

Not Enough Data to Assess

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

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.


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.


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

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