Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A when it is metabolized in the body. Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that the body needs to enhance functions of the immune system, promote healing of wounds and illnesses, protect the surface of the eye (cornea), and improve night vision.

Beta-carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and pumpkin, which contains the carotenoid provitamin A version of vitamin A. It is important to eat a wholly balanced diet that contains these foods, but it is not necessary to take beta-carotene supplements. Instead, be sure to eat foods that contain the precursor to vitamin A for optimal eye health.

There are some vitamin supplements that can help to minimize the risk for degenerative and age-related eye conditions. They can therefore improve eye health and vision. Talk to your doctor about which ones might be right for you.

Generally speaking, it is best to obtain beta-carotene in its natural form, through beta-carotene rich foods. This can help to improve physical health and therefore vision as a result.

Beta-Carotene Explained

Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring plant pigment that is converted into the provitamin A, or retinol. Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that the body uses to help the immune system work better. This then aids in healing wounds and sicknesses.

Beta-carotene is an ...

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that the body needs to function in its top form. Vitamin A also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamin A and beta-carotene help with eye health by keeping the surface of the eye, or the cornea, moist and healthy. Deficiencies of vitamin A often lead to dry eyes, which can in turn lead to corneal ulcers, clouding of the front of the eye, and vision loss. Beta-carotene can also help to enhance night and peripheral vision.

Beta-carotene is best absorbed into the body through the foods you eat. A balanced diet containing a variety of fruits and vegetables can help to enhance body and eye health and therefore vision.

Foods Containing Beta-Carotene

The best way to get beta-carotene into your body so it can be absorbed and turned into the provitamin A is through a nutritious diet. The following foods contain high levels of beta-carotene and should be included:

  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Leafy, green vegetables like kale or spinach

The well-known fact that carrots will help you see in the dark is true — to an extent. While people who suffer from a vitamin A deficiency do struggle with night blindness, just eating a ton of carrots is not likely to make you able to see in the dark.

Vitamin A can help your brain and eyes convert the light that enters them into signals that impact what you see. This can help in low-light situations. In this way, carrots do support night vision.

The idea that extreme amounts of carrots can give you super night vision is partially a myth that was spread as war propaganda during World War II. Carrots, and beta-carotene, can support eye health and vision, but eating a bunch of carrots every day is not likely to do much more than potentially turn your skin yellowish.

Benefits 

2 farmersResearch from the National Eye Institute (NEI) indicates that a healthy diet – one that contains fruits, leafy vegetables, lean meat and whole foods – positively impacts all physical health, including the health of your eyes.

A combination of vitamins and other micronutrients can reduce the risk of age-macular degeneration (AMD) by up to 25 percent, according to two separate studies labeled the Age-Related Eye Diseases Studies (AREDS & AREDS 2).

AMD mostly affects older generations and is the leading cause of blindness in America. The NEI studies show that along with vitamins C, E and and copper, beta carotene can help slow the progression of AMD in high-risk populations in one or both eyes, including in people with intermediate and advanced AMD.

Although effective on slowing the progress of AMD, beta carotene doesn’t have the same effect on cataracts, the studies showed.

Risks Involved with Beta Carotene

The AREDS 2 study yielded evidence that beta carotene poses a few lesser-known health risks. According to the findings, the micronutrient can also increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

In light of these findings, researchers from explored zeaxanthin and lutein as possible alternatives to beta carotene and discovered that they produced better results without the associated risks of the vitamin.

To reduce the risks, experts recommend normal absorption via a balanced diet. Nevertheless, beta carotene supplements may produce better results in patients with existing age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin A deficiencies are less common in developed nations like America. However, the lack of beta carotene in the diet may be a significant cause of blindness in low-income countries where diet is an issue for large swathes of the population.

You can get enough vitamin A from a regular diet consisting of vegetables and fruit. But, if you feel that your beta carotene levels may be lower than usual, speak to a doctor about getting vitamin A supplements.

Supplements for Eye Health

Taking a multivitamin in addition to a balanced diet can enhance your nutrition and eye health. When it comes to vitamins intended to support eye health, look for those containing the following mixture per the AREDS 2:

  • Vitamin C: 500 mg
  • Vitamin E: 400 IU
  • Zinc: 25 mg
  • Copper: 2 mg
  • Lutein: 10 mg
  • Zeaxanthin: 2 mg

Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

FAQs on Beta Carotene

  • Is beta carotene good for you?

    Beta carotene is a nutrient that the body can readily convert into vitamin A (also called a provitamin A carotenoid). Eating a carotenoid-rich diet is generally considered good for eye health. With a diet that contains lots of carrots and leafy greens (good sources of beta carotene), you can also stave off various eye diseases.

  • Which is better, vitamin A or beta carotene?

    Between the two, beta carotene has more health benefits than vitamin A. In excess levels, vitamin A can be toxic. The benefit of consuming a provitamin A carotenoid instead of the vitamin itself is that you allow the body to convert only as much as it needs.

References

Beta-Carotene. U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Eye Benefits from Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene. (May 2017). All About Vision.

Carrots Improve Your Night Vision: Fact or Propaganda From the RAF? (December 2018). War History Online.

A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark. (August 2013). Smithsonian Magazine.

For the Public: What AREDS Means for You. (May 2018). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Nutrition Supplements and Vision. (2019). Prevent Blindness.

Vitamins and Vision Loss. (December 2015). Harvard Health.

Health Benefits of Beta Carotene. (October 2020). Nourish by WebMD.

All you need to know about beta carotene. (December 2017). Medical News Today.

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