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Question:
Why is beta-carotene still an ingredient in some supplements? Isn't it dangerous?

Answer:
As discussed in the Vitamin A Supplements Review, beta-carotene is actually a "pre-vitamin A" -- it is converted in the body to vitamin A based on the body's need for vitamin A — an essential nutrient. This should make it a "safer" form of vitamin A, since too much vitamin A can be toxic, and, unlike vitamin A, for which there is an upper tolerable intake level, no such limit has been established for beta-carotene.

However, as noted in the Concerns and Cautions section of the Review, an analysis of many studies found a slight (5%) but statistically significant increase in mortality (i.e., more people died during studies) associated with the use of supplements containing beta-carotene, leading to the conclusion that the current evidence does not support the use of beta-carotene supplements in the general population. In particular, smokers and people who have been exposed to asbestos should avoid beta-carotene from supplements. Although it is still sometimes added to supplements for vision health, beta-carotene does not appear to reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Eating foods rich in beta-carotene has not been found to have the negative effects associated with beta-carotene supplements -- although it may cause yellowing of the skin.

For more about the pros and cons of taking beta-carotene, see the "What It Does" and the "Concerns and Cautions" sections of the Vitamin A Supplements Review >>

Also see these related CL Answers:

I am very concerned about getting too much vitamin A. Is there danger in getting too much vitamin A if I take fish oil, which I've heard contains a lot of vitamin A, in addition to my multivitamin? >>

Can supplements with antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamins A and E cause you to die sooner? >>

Can taking too much vitamin B-12 be dangerous? The label on my B-complex states it contains 50,000% the Daily Value! >>

Can taking too much vitamin B-6 be dangerous? The label on my multivitamin states it contains 2000% the Daily Value! >>


See other recent and popular questions >>
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