What is Beta Carotene (β- carotene)? Its Uses, Advantages, Side Effects and FDA Regulation

What is Beta Carotene (β- carotene)?

Beta carotene is a red-orange coloured pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colourful vegetables. β-Carotene is the most common form of carotene in plants. It is a precursor (inactive form) to vitamin A.

It is found in many foods and is sold as a dietary supplement. The colour of β-carotene is masked by chlorophyll in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, sweet potato leaves, and sweet gourd leaves. It is used as food additives in various food industries.

Chemical Formula:C40H56

History of β- carotene:

Beta-carotene found naturally and has been used for several years for imparting the colour to food products, to improve the texture and appearance. Isolation of this non-polar organic compound is through chromatography technique.

H. Wachenroder crystallized beta carotene from carrot roots in 1831, and came up with the name “carotene”. β- carotene has lipophilic nature, means it is lipid loving and can easily cross the lipid layer of cells which act as a barrier for foreign entities.

Uses, Advantages and Health Benefits of Having Beta Carotene in Diet-

Uses of β- carotene:

  • β- carotene is used as colouring agent in food products.
  • β- carotene is an anti-oxidant as it inhibits the oxidation of other molecules and protects body from free radicals.
  • It is used in various food products like juices; cake etc. to provide the desired colour.
  • It is used as an additive in beverages.
  • It is used as colouring agents in chips and other food products.
  • It is used to reduce the severity of photo-sensitivity reactions in patients with erythropoietic protoporphyria.
  • Intake of β- carotene can lower the risk of developing cancer & heart diseases.
  • Intake of β- carotene may slow down cognitive decline as it may lower down the stress factors.
  • It may be used for prevention of vitamin A deficiency states as it is main dietary source of vitamin A.

Foods rich in β- carotene:

  • Apricots, Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, Pumpkin, Spinach, Sweet potatoes

Advantages of β- carotene:

  • Beta carotene is converted into vitamin
  • It has anti-oxidant property which rejuvenates skin.
  • It helps elderly people retain their lung strength.
  • It keeps skin and internal mucous membrane healthy.
  • It provides immunity to our body.
  • It treats oral leukoplakia.
  • It is used to prevent cataract.
  • It is used to treat depression & epilepsy.

Disadvantages of β- carotene:

  • High dose of β-carotene supplementation increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
  • Its high dose may increase the risk of prostate cancer, intracerebral haemorrhage.
  • Its high dose may increase cardiovascular diseases & mortality rate in people who smoke cigarettes.

Side-effects of β- carotene:

  • Carotenodermia
  • Loose stool
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of skin.
  • Storage in fatty tissues.

FDA Regulation on Beta Carotene

Certification of this color additive when used as a food is not necessary for the protection of the public health and therefore batches thereof are exempt from the requirements of section 706(c) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.21 CFR 73.95; U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Available from, as of August 30, 2006

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