What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A has two forms.

One which is known as retinol, retinaldehyde and retinoic acid (preformed vitamin A). This is obtained from animal food sources such as liver, egg yolks and butter.


The other form of Vitamin A that we can obtain from food are known as carotenoids. Carotenoids can be distinguished by their bright vibrant colours in such vegetables as carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

How does this relate to beta-carotene?

Beta-Carotene is an organic compound that gives color to plants and fruits. It is also used for food coloring and has the E number E160a. (George W. A, 2005)

Beta-carotene is the most well-known provitamin A carotenoid (precursor to vitamin A), which means body turns beta-carotene into the antioxidant vitamin A. It is used as an antioxidant to help the body deal with oxidative stress and free radicals. (Van Arnum, 1998)

Potential dangers involved in both forms of vitamin A

While excessive intake of preformed vitamin A can lead to hypervitaminosis A which can result in toxic shock and death, this will not occur with beta carotene as the body will not convert it to retinol when levels are already met.

However, what can develop from eating excessive beta-carotene rich foods like carrots is carotenemia – a yellowing of the skin.

Why does your body needs beta-carotene?

According to nutri-facts, a sufficient intake of beta-carotene is important because it is:

– A safe source of vitamin A, helping the body reach the vitamin A levels that are essential for normal growth and development, good vision and eye health, a strong immune system and healthy skin.

– An antioxidant, contributing to protecting the body against the damaging effects of free radicals, which can potentially increase the risk of developing certain diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

beta carotene_2

Other uses

According to a Nutrient Journals article on the potential use of beta-carotene, it is being used as an oral sun protectant, and evidence indicates that carotenoids may protect human skin from light-induced lesions.

It has been speculated that carotenoids contribute to protection against acute and chronic exposure to UV light. However, little is known about distribution and accumulation of beta-carotene in tissues.

Beta-carotene may also be used to decrease asthma symptoms caused by exercise, probably through in vivo antioxidative effect. Always check with your health practitioner before taking any supplements.

As usual, to keep your body and mind healthy, I suggest keeping a balance – though make sure you include your vitamins in this! Through exercise, healthy eating and mindfulness in our actions we can maintain a sustainable and positive lifestyle!

Connect with Expert Sinead Loughnane

Lycopene and β-carotene are bioavailable from lycopene ‘red’ carrots in humans, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004) 58, 803–811. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601880

Potential uses of beta-Carotene – Nutrition Journal, Sport Nutrition Journal

Milne, George W. A. “Gardner’s commercially important chemicals: synonyms, trade names, and properties.” New York: Wiley-Interscience. (2005).

Susan D. Van Arnum (1998). “Vitamin A”. Vitamin A in Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (45). New York: John Wiley. pp. 99–107.


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