The Clear Truth About Beta Carotene

By: Callie Pillsbury on Aug 3, 2017

Carotenoids are a group of nutrients in the vitamin A family. Carotenoids are the yellow- orange pigment mostly found in fruits and vegetables., but there are also some carotenoids in animal products such as egg yolks. Carotenoids contribute to about 68% of vitamin A that is consumed in the diet.


smiling-carrot-juice-photo.jpgBeta carotene is the most important carotenoid because it contains the highest provitamin A activity. Provitamin A carotenoids start as beta carotene and are then converted to vitamin A and absorbed into the body. Other carotenoids that are pro vitamin A carotenoids are alpha carotene and beta cryptoxanthin. The main function of beta carotene is antioxidant activity to interact and terminate free radicals damage (1). Even though beta carotene is a fat soluble vitamin, it cannot cause toxicity. This is because body converts vitamin A from beta carotene as needed.  The only adverse side effect for eating too much beta carotene is carotenodermia, a yellow discoloration of the skin.


There are no dietary recommendations for beta carotene since it is a precursor to vitamin A. To see how much beta carotene you need look at the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A which is expressed in retinol activity equivalents (RAE). To get 1 RAE you need 2 mcg of beta carotene in a supplement or 12 mcg of beta carotene through food 



1-3 years old

300 mcg

4-8 years old

400 mcg

9-13 years old

600 mcg

Males 14 and older

900 mcg

Females 14 and older

700 mcg


Eyes. Because beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, it has the same benefits as vitamin A on eye health. Vitamin A protects the cornea which is crucial for adequate vision. Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness. The FAO states that 3 million people have gone blind from not enough vitamin A in the diet.

Skin. Since beta carotene A is an antioxidant, it plays a role is sequenching free radicals that break down collagen.  It helps in wound healing and supports the skin cells.

Immune system. Beta carotene functions as a powerful antioxidant to inhibit oxidation of free radicals. Damage from free radicals harms the immune system. Beta carotene increases antibody responses and helps the development of T helper cells and B cells. These cells function to fight infection in the body (2).



Beta carotene is found in yellow fruits and vegetables. It is also found in green leafy vegetables, but the chlorophyll pigment in these vegetables take over the color to give a green color instead of the yellow orange color that beta carotene exhibits.  Spinach and kale actually have a higher beta carotene content than carrots!



Beta carotene is often supplemented in foods. It gives color to margarine and it is often used in drinks to increase the RDA for vitamin A. Here at Watson we have a new spray dried beta carotene product that is completely clear! In the past, the application of spray dried beta carotene has been problematic because it produced a slight orange tint in beverages and dairy products. This tampers with its ability to be used in formulations in beverage, foods and dietary supplements. If desired, now you can add our new BetaClear™ 768 to your formulation to produce a clear solution. More information on our new clear spray drying beta carotene product click here!