Effect of beta-carotene as an antioxidant

Oxidation is a destructive process that we all know best from rusting iron or fats becoming rancid. Similarly, destructive damage is caused by free radicals in our body if we do not protect ourselves against them. 

In addition to antioxidants such as vitamin C, OPC, Q10, vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium and others, beta-carotene plays a central role as an efficient antioxidant and is therefore added to butter and margarine to make it last longer.

Within these important functions, beta-carotene neutralises the attacking free radicals and protects our body cells from the damage that can cause premature ageing and many diseases.

Effect of beta-carotene as a scavenger of singlet oxygen

Singlet oxygen is produced beneath the skin under the influence of microwaves or ultraviolet light, as we experience it in sunlight.

In the formation of harmful peroxides and hydroperoxides, the singlet oxygen reacts with many organic compounds, triggering whole chain reactions to free radical attacks and causing immense damage to the body.

Here beta-carotene has the extraordinary gift of intercepting and defusing this singlet oxygen by absorbing its energy and releasing it as heat – a process also known as ‘quenching’.

Effect of beta-carotene on the immune system

In numerous studies, beta-carotene has proven its ability to stimulate the immune system time and again. In this function, it activates the immune system via several mechanisms:

-                   it activates T lymphocytes and killer cells;

-                   it promotes the growth of B and T lymphocytes;

-                   it additionally strengthens the cytotoxicity of macrophages.

Effect of beta-carotene on diseases and conditions

In its function as a highly potent antioxidant, ultimately as the protector of our cells, beta-carotene exerts a positive influence on an infinite number of diseases that are impossible to list here.

Beta-carotene has shown itself to be particularly effective in the following diseases and conditions:

-       heart disease

-       atherosclerosis

-       memory loss

-       cancer (especially cancers of the breathing and digestive organs)

-       radiation protection of the skin

-       protection of the eyes (against macular degeneration)

-       protection against intestinal polyps 

-       regulation of fat metabolism

-       mucous membrane protection

-       wound healing

Protective effect of beta-carotene against myocardial infarction

According to a study on 4,800 Dutch people at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, an increased intake of beta-carotene reduces the risk of a heart attack by an unbelievable 45 %!

The study participants were between the ages of 55 and 95; those taking beta-carotene-rich foods in addition to beta-carotene supplements reduced their heart attack risk by as much as 50 %! 

Researchers suspect the reasons for this reduction were the effect of beta-carotene as a radical scavenger and the direct influence of vitamin A (beta-carotene is the precursor of vitamin A) on the fat metabolism.[1]


Protective effect of beta-carotene against atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, also commonly referred to as ‘arterial calcification‘, is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease. A daily dose of 15-25 mg of beta-carotene can counteract atherosclerosis and subsequent diseases such as heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and circulatory disorders in the legs.

Effect of beta-carotene against cancer

Beta-carotene has proven its worth in cancer patients for years, both as a preventive and as an adjunct therapy, and is now part of many alternative cancer therapies.

Numerous studies have proven that people who have a high level of beta-carotene in their blood are less likely to develop cancer. In his time, one of the biggest advocates of beta-carotene in the fight against cancer was the late Dr. Nieper, who made a name for himself as a tireless advocate of natural medicine in diseases such as cancer or MS and was very successful in doing so. In addition to ordinary citizens, both Hollywood greats and nobles were among his patients.

Dr. Nieper was a pioneer in the field and was one of the first complementary oncologists to recognise that beta-carotene, through the activation of T-cells (‘natural killer cells’) and the thymus gland, was extremely successful in stimulating the immune system and was tailor-made for fighting cancer. He prescribed his cancer patients high doses of beta-carotene and achieved above-average cure rates in conjunction with other natural remedies.

Beta-carotene seems to be very helpful, especially with certain cancers; these include skin cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, gastric cancer, oesophageal cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer.

For example, the Ärztezeitung (Doctor’s Journal) reported in its issue of 22 August 2000 that beta-carotene reduces the risk of developing lung, oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Effect of beta-carotene against cancer

Even with cancer, beta-carotene functions using various mechanisms:

-       It stimulates the immune system,

-       inactivates substances harmful to cells,

-       controls cell growth and cell multiplication and

-       inhibits the mutation of procarcinogens in carcinogens.

Beta-carotene in mouth cancer

In itself and in combination with vitamin E, beta-carotene has been shown to reduce degenerate damage in several studies.

Beta-carotene in intestinal polyps and colorectal cancer

In a study on 864 subjects, called the Antioxidant Polyp Prevention Study, beta-carotene could prove to reduce the risk of recurrent bowel polyps by 44 %. The prevention of intestinal cancer is also attributed to this.[2]

Beta-carotene in skin cancer

The effect of beta-carotene against skin cancer has been well established; for example, to prevent skin cancer, it is now recommended to take a dose of 15-30 mg/day four to six weeks before a holiday in a sunny place.

Beta-carotene for stomach cancer

In the five-year Linxian study on 30,000 Chinese people in 1993, the subjects (all non-smokers!) were given beta-carotene in combination with vitamin E and selenium. Mortality rates were thus reduced by 9 %, cancer deaths were reduced by 13 % and, with gastric cancer, significant success was achieved, with 21 % fewer deaths.[3]

Effect of beta-carotene on the eyes

Beta-carotene has proven itself in numerous ocular function disorders:


Beta-carotene protect eyes from macular degeneration

A study on 356 volunteers succeeded in unequivocally certifying beta-carotene as a significant protecting factor against age-related macular degeneration.

Beta-carotene and dry conjunctiva

Beta-carotene, or vitamin A converted from it, proves to be very helpful in case of excessively dry conjunctiva, when it comes about, for example, due to irritation caused by contact lenses. Here, beta-carotene (most efficiently in conjunction with omega-3 fatty acids) can replace the eye drops that would otherwise be necessary.

Beta-carotene and night blindness

Beta-carotene (or vitamin A) can counteract night and twilight vision disorders.

Beta-carotene is important for healthy skin and eyes

Beta-carotene is of paramount importance for the ability of healthy skin and eyes to function (beta-carotene is a component of the visual pigment!). If more beta-carotene is taken than is needed for vitamin A production, it will be deposited in the cells of the epidermis, where it will have a further positive impact on the health and protection of our skin.



Beta-carotene effect as mucosal protection

Since beta-carotene also affects the moisture balance, it has a pronounced mucosal protection and can be very helpful in this regard for diseases of the bronchi, the gastrointestinal tract and all kinds of allergies.

Beta-carotene accelerates wound healing and relieves burns

Beta-carotene also exerts an influence on the cell metabolism of the skin, accelerating wound healing and relieving burns.

Effect of beta-carotene on fat metabolism

As a Spanish study has shown, it is clear that vitamin A (beta-carotene is the precursor) not only has a significant influence on the protein but also on our fat metabolism and thus on our body fat percentage. Inadequate vitamin A distribution resulted in an increase in adipose tissue; a rich intake of vitamin A, however, caused the pounds to melt away again.[4]

[1] American Journal of Nutrition

[2] Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2003; 95, p. 717–722

[3] J Natl Cancer Inst 85, 1993, p. 1483

[4] Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2003, 60 (7), p. 1311–1321