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Beta Carotene (By mouth)

Antioxidant. This medicine is a form of vitamin A.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Vitamins are compounds that you must have for growth and health. They are needed in small amounts only and are usually available in the foods that you eat. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy eyes and skin. A lack of vitamin A may cause a rare condition called night blindness (problems seeing in the dark). It may also cause dry eyes, eye infections, Read more
Brand names include
A-Caro-25, Lumitene
Drug classes About this
Nutritive Agent

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

What are the effects of vitamins E and C, beta‐carotene, selenium and glutathione on lung disease in people with cystic fibrosis?

Frequent chest infections in people with cystic fibrosis cause long‐lasting inflammation in their lungs. Cells causing inflammation produce a kind of oxygen molecule (reactive oxygen species (ROS)) which can easily harm proteins and DNA (oxidative damage). To fight these effects, the body may produce antioxidants. The genetic defect in cystic fibrosis leads to an imbalance favouring the high production of harmful ROS over the low level of protective antioxidants. Antioxidant supplements might help reduce the oxidative damage in the lungs from constant infection and build up low levels of antioxidants.

Effects of beta-carotene supplements on cancer prevention: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

This meta-analysis aimed to investigate the effects of beta-carotene supplements alone on cancer prevention as reported by randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched PubMed, EMBASE, and CENTRAL. Among the 848 articles searched, 6 randomized controlled trials, including 40,544 total participants, 20,290 in beta-carotene supplement groups, and 20,254 in placebo groups, were included in the final analysis. In a meta-analysis of 6 RCTs, beta-carotene supplements had no preventive effect on either cancer incidence [relative risk (RR) = 1.08, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.99-1.18] or cancer mortality (RR = 1.00, 95% CI = 0.87-1.15). Similar findings were observed in both primary prevention trials and secondary prevention trials. Subgroup analyses by various factors revealed no preventive effect of beta-carotene supplementation on cancer prevention and that it significantly increased the risk of urothelial cancer, especially bladder cancer (RR = 1.52, 95% CI = 1.03-2.24) and marginally increased the risk of cancer among current smokers (RR = 1.07, 95% CI = 0.99-1.17). The current meta-analysis of RCTs indicated that there is no clinical evidence to support the overall primary or secondary preventive effect of beta-carotene supplements on cancer. The potential effects, either beneficial or harmful, of beta-carotene supplementation on cancer should not be overemphasized.

Antioxidant vitamins and mineral supplements to prevent the development of age‐related macular degeneration

Age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting the central area of the retina (back of the eye). The retina can deteriorate with age and some people get lesions that can lead to loss of central vision. Some studies have suggested that people who eat a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins (carotenoids, vitamins C and E) or minerals (selenium and zinc) may be less likely to get AMD. The authors identified four large, high‐quality randomised controlled trials which included 62,520 people. The trials were conducted in Australia, Finland and the USA and investigated the effects of vitamin E and beta‐carotene supplementation. These trials provide evidence that taking vitamin E and beta‐carotene supplements is unlikely to prevent the onset of AMD. There was no evidence for other antioxidant supplements and commonly marketed combinations. Although generally regarded as safe, vitamin supplements may have harmful effects and clear evidence of benefit is needed before they can be recommended.

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Summaries for consumers

What are the effects of vitamins E and C, beta‐carotene, selenium and glutathione on lung disease in people with cystic fibrosis?

Frequent chest infections in people with cystic fibrosis cause long‐lasting inflammation in their lungs. Cells causing inflammation produce a kind of oxygen molecule (reactive oxygen species (ROS)) which can easily harm proteins and DNA (oxidative damage). To fight these effects, the body may produce antioxidants. The genetic defect in cystic fibrosis leads to an imbalance favouring the high production of harmful ROS over the low level of protective antioxidants. Antioxidant supplements might help reduce the oxidative damage in the lungs from constant infection and build up low levels of antioxidants.

Antioxidant vitamins and mineral supplements to prevent the development of age‐related macular degeneration

Age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting the central area of the retina (back of the eye). The retina can deteriorate with age and some people get lesions that can lead to loss of central vision. Some studies have suggested that people who eat a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins (carotenoids, vitamins C and E) or minerals (selenium and zinc) may be less likely to get AMD. The authors identified four large, high‐quality randomised controlled trials which included 62,520 people. The trials were conducted in Australia, Finland and the USA and investigated the effects of vitamin E and beta‐carotene supplementation. These trials provide evidence that taking vitamin E and beta‐carotene supplements is unlikely to prevent the onset of AMD. There was no evidence for other antioxidant supplements and commonly marketed combinations. Although generally regarded as safe, vitamin supplements may have harmful effects and clear evidence of benefit is needed before they can be recommended.

Antioxidant supplements for liver disease

Beta‐carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E cannot be recommended for treatment of liver diseases.

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