Beta-carotene has received some mixed press over the years. Lots of hoopla over one little vitamin, Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Years ago, high doses of betacarotene were shown to increase the risk for cancer and death in smokers. In the last few months, beta-carotene has gotten more bad news. Six years after a study was halted early because a risky association between high-dose beta-carotene supplementation and heart disease and cancer was detected, follow-ups showed that for women, the bad effects lingered. The participants took 30 milligrams per day of beta-carotene plus extra vitamin A.
Researchers found that the increased risk of heart disease and cancer disappeared when the men in the study stopped taking the beta-carotene supplements, but the risk for women continued. Before the study was halted, the participants who took the supplement had a 28 percent greater incidence of lung cancer and 17 percent more deaths from all causes compared with those who didn’t take the beta-carotene. In the follow-up, women were 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer, 40 percent more likely to die of heart disease, and 30 percent more likely to die of all other causes.
This lingering increased risk for women may be because beta-carotene and vitamin E are both fat-soluble, allowing any excess to accumulate in fat-cell membranes. This could explain the adverse effects of beta-carotene in women, who have more body fat than men. Vitamin C is water-soluble, and any excess leaves the body via urine.
And today, there’s some good news. Ed Edelson HealthDay News
reports that beta-carotene may protect us against dementia
. Take a look:
Taking supplements of the antioxidant beta carotene for a long time -- 15 years or more -- appears to lessen the decline in thinking ability that comes with Alzheimer's disease, a study finds…
…The idea that antioxidants such as beta carotene can help protect against Alzheimer's disease is not new. But the idea remains controversial, because a number of studies have not produced positive results. This latest trial, which started as the Physicians Health Study II, stretches back to 1982…
…The idea that long-term use of the supplements is necessary "is certainly plausible, given that the neuropathologic changes underlying clinically significant impairment appear to take years, if not decades," Dr. Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California wrote. But evidence for that concept would be difficult to obtain, since it would require trials lasting 25 to 30 years, she said.
Now, if you’re curious about veggie sources of beta-carotene, here’s a list from Dr. Fuhrman. Check it out:
Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, broccoli, and asparagus); deep orange fruits (apricots, cantaloupe, mango, and papaya); deep orange vegetables (squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin).
You can’t beat a nice ripe cantaloupe—so good!