Could Beta Carotene Kill Me?

Filed Under: Food and Nutrition, Heart Attack

It’s well known that vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, is absorbed by and stored in body fat. Excessive intake can lead to toxicity over time. On the other hand, beta carotene—a precursor to vitamin A—is water soluble and, therefore, a much safer nutrient.

Beta carotene is an extremely important player in promoting heart health and in managing heart risk factors. More than 200 studies have confirmed that any good cardiovascular nutrition plan should include foods rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, and other antioxidants.

Over the years, a few studies questioning the safety of supplementing with beta carotene and other antioxidants have made the headlines. A review of 50 studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) a few years ago concluded that beta-carotene may accelerate death. However, a closer look at these studies reveals major flaws in this conclusion. The studies reviewed used various combinations of natural and synthetic antioxidants in varying doses over different lengths of time. Furthermore, these studies were conducted on both healthy and severely ill individuals.

One Finnish study in the review was conducted on smokers and alcoholics—people with severely compromised livers and immune systems who may have actually been harmed by the huge doses of beta-carotene they were given (50,000 IU a day). In addition, the beta-carotene used in the study was synthetic and colored with yellow dye #10, a known carcinogen in animals. Another study included in the review was one in which researchers used an astronomical combination of up to 75,000 IU of vitamin A and beta-carotene!

First of all, no responsible doctor would use such over-the-top amounts of these nutrients. And secondly, the pooled studies were simply too diverse to draw meaningful conclusions.

Good health information is based on all of the facts, not just the ones that support your agenda. Don’t accept the headlines about supplements at face value. Stay with me for the real story—you’ll find, as I do, that it’s usually different from what’s in the news.

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DISCLAIMER: The content of is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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