What Is Beta Carotene?

Beta carotene is among the 600 plus constituent nutrient elements belonging to the plant family named carotidoids. Commonly referred to as provitamin A, the nutrient is processed in the human body as vitamin A, also known as Retinol.

Beta carotene is a very vital nutrient, which helps maintain and improve eyesight, make the skin healthy and improve the functioning of the immune system of the body. People belonging to countries like Norway, Sweden, Japan, etc have consistently shown lesser incidences of cancers of the breast, colon, intestine, lungs and prostrate gland. On researching closely and keenly inspecting their dietary habits, these people were found to be consuming optimum doses of beta carotene in their meals. It is hence proved that this nutrient has great powers as a cancer inhibitor. This is because of its intrinsic ability to convert carcinogens in environmental stimuli to substances properly soluble in the body, so they can be expelled. Diseases like arteriosclerosis, and atherosclerosis can also be inhibited to some extent. These diseases are caused due to narrowing of arterial walls because of the deposition of  atheromantous plaques on them. These plaques oxidate into Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL’s) which are popularly known as the “bad cholesterol”. Betaa carotene prevents their oxidation. This in turn leads to reduced risk of myocardial infarction meaning, blockage of blood vessels leading to the heart. And this prevents an untimely death due to a cardiac arrest.

Years of systematic and consistent research in the United States have proved that the cases of prostrate cancer was two times lower in males who regularly consumed beta carotene compared to those who didn’t. When the human body is provided with optimal amounts of vitamin A, in combination with other vital nutrients like zinc, potassium, sodium as also other vitamins like those from the groups B, C, D, E and K it is very resistant to a plethora of diseases. Cell differentiation is controlled by vitamin A. This quality prevents mutation, that is unnatural division and multiplication of body cells which causes cancer.

Though beta carotene is very essential to the body, one must ensure it is consumed in the purest form possible. Often we get vegetables and fruits like carrots, oranges, papayas, mangoes, etc which are natural sources of the vitamin. But they are also contaminated by harmful substances like nitrate and cadmium, which minimize the health benefits of the nutrients they contain. Only organically grown fruits and vegetables can provide the nutrient in pure, healthy form. Beta carotene should be properly absorbed in the body though, for it to have a therapeutic effect. Fatty acids enable absorption and conversion of the nutrient into vitamins for the body.

Why is beta carotene so necessary?

The vitality of the body, its flexibilty and agility is maintained by beta carotene. Syntheses of vitamin A gives form to the nutrient Rhodopsin, which is responsible for healthy vision during twilight. The opsins present in the retina of the eye react with Rhodopsin to form photosensitive elements, which ensure good vision. Beta carotene helps in the formation and proper functioning of  keratine secreting and muco-secretory tissues. Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to reduced secretions by epithelial glands which keep the eyes moist, leading to dry eyes. Also, the susceptibility to eye infections gets amplified. The proper growth of bones, muscle wear and tear and regeneration are also functions of beta carotene. The nutrient also helps in improving reproductive health, and foetal development.

But in higher doses it can be harmful, and is generally avoided during pregnancy and lactation. This is because it comes with a risk of causing birth defects.

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