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what is Beta carotene

Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables.

The name beta carotene comes from the Greek "beta" and Latin "carota" (carrot). It is the yellow/orange pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colors. H. Wachenroder crystallized beta carotene from carrot roots in 1831, and came up with the name "carotene".

In this article, we explain all about beta carotene, what it does in the body, and what foods it is found in. We will also cover any associated risks.

Fast facts on beta carotene

Here are some key points about beta carotene. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Beta carotene is a red/orange pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables

Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A, an essential vitamin

Vitamin A is toxic at high levels

Beta carotene is a carotenoid and an antioxidant

Foods rich in vitamin A include onions, carrots, peas, spinach and squash

One study showed that smokers with high beta carotene intake might have an increased risk of lung cancer

Some evidence suggests that beta carotene might slow cognitive decline

Beta carotene supplements interact with certain drugs, including statins and mineral oil

Beta carotene might help older people retain their lung strength as they age.

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