2

votes

New Study Reveals the Danger Of Excess BETA-CAROTENE

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 05, 2012 at 5:20 PM

I came across this article in the newspaper a few days ago about the dangers of excess beta-carotene.

http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/News/2012/05/Potential--Dark-Side--Found-for-Diets-High-in-Beta-carotene/

I eat large amounts sweet potatoes and carrots to full my exercise, should I be concerned?

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on January 02, 2013
at 04:13 PM

I agree with April. Too much of anything will kill you. That's what "too much" means.

Bad3a78e228c67a7513c28f17c36b3cf

(1387)

on January 02, 2013
at 02:27 PM

Thats very interesting. Do you eat eggs and liver?

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on June 08, 2012
at 01:30 PM

I am surprised at this and am trying to find more evidence. Seems unlikely that something with white or purple flesh would have significant caratenoids

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 04, 2012
at 05:15 PM

The problem with this answer is that it isn't an answer. It's like saying "just eat everything in moderation".

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on May 31, 2012
at 10:42 AM

Especially if it's something that's extracted and provided in huge amounts, or synthesized which makes it slightly different than what's found in nature. The same way that synthetic B6, B12, E are not good for us while their natural versions are.

5e92edc5a180787a60a252a8232006e9

(345)

on May 31, 2012
at 12:36 AM

Yes, i tend to agree that isolated supplements are not the same as whole foods. However, see my reaction below and I've also heard of anecdotal accounts of beta carotene affecting night vision. Nothing damaging or serious but it seems to confirm that Vit A might be blocked by taking in excess Beta Carotene.

5e92edc5a180787a60a252a8232006e9

(345)

on May 30, 2012
at 09:39 PM

No, the point is isolated nutrients made by man that's supplemented in without fully understanding their interactions with other chemicals.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 30, 2012
at 06:35 PM

Yeah compounds in isolation are somehow magically different than when they come in the form of little orange sticks in the ground.

C250cd5da05ca54ad3133630ff614573

(175)

on May 30, 2012
at 05:56 PM

To give you ideas, my sources of carbs are oranges, apples, bananas, and peaches.

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:58 PM

I think john's point was that natural supplementation from whole foods can still be problematic

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:54 PM

also, i am pretty sure that the purple japanese yams also have high levels of beta carotene unfortunately...

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:53 PM

paleomouth, have you found decent substitutes? I miss my kabocha and sweet potatoes.

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:48 PM

so very true. in addition to my comment about the aesthetic downside of too many kabocha pumpkins, I recently learned that these pumpkins absorb more toxins from the soil, so much so that some farmers specifically plant them in order to get rid of those toxins from the soil!! this really convicted me that you really cannot do anything to excess, you just never really know all the hidden dangers...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 06, 2012
at 10:13 PM

Seems like a very hasty reaction to a very small bit of science. Way too early to say anything really!

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 06, 2012
at 10:10 PM

You need fat to absorb beta-carotene as well. When I roast my carrots the oil turns bright orange, I know I'm solubilzing the beta-carotene that way.

2fd566cefde2de38e75e1bc13a966e16

(662)

on May 06, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Those animals' livers are toxic because they have massive amounts of retinol, one of the active forms of Vitamin A. As has been mentioned here beta-carotene is converted extremely inefficiently to retinol forms, so it is not acutely toxic. The original paper is talking about potentially subtler problems with beta-carotene: totally different from acute hypervitaminosis A that can result from too much retinol consumption.

Ba09704971e33481f5716c4790648966

(1794)

on May 06, 2012
at 07:57 PM

It should say Vitamin A (As Beta-Carotene). If it says from fish oil or something, it's retinol. It usually says.

45eaf1688c1baf31d687a382b78f451f

(502)

on May 06, 2012
at 03:43 PM

That's it, April S. They basically took beta-carotene and broke it down into it's smaller parts (most which had to be synthesized) and then tested those parts against human cells to see what would happen. All in isolation.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 06, 2012
at 02:56 PM

+1 Whole foods and processed refined foods are totally different. Folks need to stop panicing over stuff like this.

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on May 06, 2012
at 05:30 AM

my understanding from it is that beta-carotene is beta-carotene whether supplemental or in a sweet potato... it is how our body processes it which is problematic - it gets enzymaticly cleaved into a product which antagonises real vitamin A in our body. He poses that this is the chemical that is problematic.

Medium avatar

(10663)

on May 06, 2012
at 02:15 AM

I think this might be the study: http://www.jbc.org/content/early/2012/03/14/jbc.M111.325142.full.pdf+html

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on May 06, 2012
at 12:14 AM

Anyone got a link to the study itself?

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on May 05, 2012
at 09:18 PM

Ask yourself why people here keep recommending liver and fish oil (which have vitamin A with no conversion needed).

3b0b95dfc6dc5c18e535945f4aab0866

(2392)

on May 05, 2012
at 08:38 PM

Beta carotene is not efficiently converted in general. Genetics can also reduce that efficiency further - there are known genes that influence efficiency.

Bb2adc4df725b56e99e0652c0feb4640

(254)

on May 05, 2012
at 06:32 PM

Another wrinkle: You don't absorb much carotene from raw carrots. It has to be cooked first ...

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on May 05, 2012
at 06:06 PM

In the study I cited, the amount of beta-carotene (20 mg) they used for those negative effects is very small. If I'm correct, you'd get that with just a few carrots.

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on May 05, 2012
at 06:00 PM

This is not new. Those dangers of beta-carotene have been suspected for a long time, see http://atbcstudy.cancer.gov/pdfs/atbc33010291994.pdf

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on May 05, 2012
at 05:38 PM

what's your definition of "large amounts"? How much do you normally eat a day/week?

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14 Answers

8
45eaf1688c1baf31d687a382b78f451f

on May 06, 2012
at 02:00 AM

I'm going to have to look into this more, try to find what studies they're basing their conclusions on. It was my understanding that the cancer-causing beta-carotene was the one found in vitamins, NOT whole foods. This paragraph from the article seems to support my recollection: "The findings also might explain why, in a decades-old clinical trial, more people who were heavily *supplemented* with beta-carotene ended up with lung cancer than did research participants who took no beta-carotene at all. The trial was ended early because of that unexpected outcome."

In fact, the researchers aren't really talking about the effects of beta-carotene in whole foods. And it appears the whole purpose of their study is to understand why the artificial beta-carotene in the test on male smokers and asbestos workers created a higher incidence of lung cancer. So they can genetically engineer crops with increased beta-carotene for populations who are lacking vitamin A in their diets.

What I take away from this article is that the beta-carotene in our carrots and sweet potatoes is in no way the same as the beta-carotene used in the study that caused an increase in lung cancer. There is a danger when we isolate vitamins and minerals from the whole foods they came from because, as the researchers themselves stated, we don't fully understand how all the properties in a whole food work together to make it nourishing.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 06, 2012
at 02:56 PM

+1 Whole foods and processed refined foods are totally different. Folks need to stop panicing over stuff like this.

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on May 06, 2012
at 05:30 AM

my understanding from it is that beta-carotene is beta-carotene whether supplemental or in a sweet potato... it is how our body processes it which is problematic - it gets enzymaticly cleaved into a product which antagonises real vitamin A in our body. He poses that this is the chemical that is problematic.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 30, 2012
at 06:35 PM

Yeah compounds in isolation are somehow magically different than when they come in the form of little orange sticks in the ground.

5e92edc5a180787a60a252a8232006e9

(345)

on May 31, 2012
at 12:36 AM

Yes, i tend to agree that isolated supplements are not the same as whole foods. However, see my reaction below and I've also heard of anecdotal accounts of beta carotene affecting night vision. Nothing damaging or serious but it seems to confirm that Vit A might be blocked by taking in excess Beta Carotene.

5
Medium avatar

(10663)

on May 07, 2012
at 04:36 AM

Can we just all agree that anything in excess is bad? K thnx.

5e92edc5a180787a60a252a8232006e9

(345)

on May 30, 2012
at 09:39 PM

No, the point is isolated nutrients made by man that's supplemented in without fully understanding their interactions with other chemicals.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on May 31, 2012
at 10:42 AM

Especially if it's something that's extracted and provided in huge amounts, or synthesized which makes it slightly different than what's found in nature. The same way that synthetic B6, B12, E are not good for us while their natural versions are.

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:48 PM

so very true. in addition to my comment about the aesthetic downside of too many kabocha pumpkins, I recently learned that these pumpkins absorb more toxins from the soil, so much so that some farmers specifically plant them in order to get rid of those toxins from the soil!! this really convicted me that you really cannot do anything to excess, you just never really know all the hidden dangers...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 04, 2012
at 05:15 PM

The problem with this answer is that it isn't an answer. It's like saying "just eat everything in moderation".

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on January 02, 2013
at 04:13 PM

I agree with April. Too much of anything will kill you. That's what "too much" means.

2
535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

on May 05, 2012
at 11:36 PM

The question this raised for me, is if these caratenoids have anti-A activity.. perhaps the negative effect observed is from people with already minimal vitamin A (retinol) in their diet getting even worse activity.

I consume alot of carotene from sweet potato and pumpkin (~1kg a day) and this has been a good reminder to diversify my starch sources. My retinol status is quite good though (alot of liver in particular) and with some hope outweighed the negative effect on vitamin A produced by the caratenoids.

My first course of action is less sweet potato and more pumpkin.. while I look for some whiter starches (or purple :D ).

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:53 PM

paleomouth, have you found decent substitutes? I miss my kabocha and sweet potatoes.

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:54 PM

also, i am pretty sure that the purple japanese yams also have high levels of beta carotene unfortunately...

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on June 08, 2012
at 01:30 PM

I am surprised at this and am trying to find more evidence. Seems unlikely that something with white or purple flesh would have significant caratenoids

2
Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on May 05, 2012
at 05:56 PM

I remember reading somewhere this might be due to B12 deficiency and that B12 was indeed recommended so that beta-carotene is used in a good way.

So the question is, if you do have adequate amount of B12 (dairy has plenty), is it ok to consume beta-carotene (carrots and sweet potatoes)?

Bb2adc4df725b56e99e0652c0feb4640

(254)

on May 05, 2012
at 06:32 PM

Another wrinkle: You don't absorb much carotene from raw carrots. It has to be cooked first ...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 06, 2012
at 10:10 PM

You need fat to absorb beta-carotene as well. When I roast my carrots the oil turns bright orange, I know I'm solubilzing the beta-carotene that way.

1
543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on May 07, 2012
at 12:10 AM

here's a comment i found under another article on the same research http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Researchers-reveal-dark-side-to-high-beta-carotene-intake

The "shockwaves" referred to over a dated trial which used synthetic beta-carotene on already sick people (smokers) simply illustrate that old myths die hard. There is no evidence that the intake of natural mixed carotenes is in any way harmful.

And as for the current supposedly negative findings (if verified) would it not be a more reasonable view that such molecules are simply a self-limiting factor placed in foods by a wise Creator? In this way a possible oversupply of Vitamin A in the body is prevented. It explains the well-known fact that a high intake of natural mixed carotenes results only in health benefits. Because the above seems self-evident, one needs to ask the following question.

Is this report (as presented) just another attempt by vested interests to tarnish everything natural and to promote their own agenda?

Comment by Edward Jackson

1
742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 05, 2012
at 08:24 PM

Looks like I have to look for another source of carbs. I was consuming 3-4 pounds of sweet potatoes daily as well as carrots and a lot of leafy greens. This just goes to show the superiority of animal products.

C250cd5da05ca54ad3133630ff614573

(175)

on May 30, 2012
at 05:56 PM

To give you ideas, my sources of carbs are oranges, apples, bananas, and peaches.

0
Ef4a0a9810403a81b75f4621a53eb8c7

on January 02, 2013
at 12:22 PM

What does these all mean!!! Shall I take Anti oxidant pills with Beta Carotene or not!!!!

0
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on June 04, 2012
at 04:34 PM

Well, I am glad I am not the one adding copious amounts of fat to my vegetables to increase vitamin absorption. Then again, I'm not putting much weight into this study, and will continue to eat spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, salads, etc.

0
5e92edc5a180787a60a252a8232006e9

(345)

on May 30, 2012
at 10:18 PM

Interesting. I wonder now then what I experienced was accidental. For about 2 months, I was on a yam-heavy safe starch diet. I consumed probably 400g+ of orange yams daily during that span (about 3 medium-sized orange American Southern yams).

I noticed my vision becoming very cloudy and blurry at night. I also occasionally (once or twice a week) take 2 tsps os Carlson's Cold Liver Oil, which has 850 IU of Vitamin A per teaspoon. When I did, I noticed my vision clearing up almost immediately. I also noted my sudden craving for the CLO (LOL) like an iron-deficient person craving ice.

Could this be that the excessive consumption of orange yams had anti-Vitamin A properties, resulting in paradoxical Vit A deficiency? The result is paradoxical, just like the linked article points out, because the beta carotene doesn't always convert to Vit A as assumed but blocks Vit A.

(But then do we really have to wonder? Taking calcium actually increases cardiovascular risk. Taking resveratrol in supplement form doesn't seem to lengthen longevity. Large intakes of fish oil could increase the risk of cancer.)

But the crux here is that this occurred when I was eating yams high in beta carotene, not any supplements. If so, this is very alarming indeed! In the above cases where vitamins had unintended effects, they were in the form of isolated nutrients.

Anyone on a high safe starch, orange yam diet experience vision anomalies like I did? If so, then, try taking some cod liver oil and see if the anomaly clears up. My tale seems to confirm the article's findings. Indeed, the beta carotene's anti-Vitamin A effect doesn't seem to be just limited to supplements. Confusing, huh? Before, we thought Beta Carotene was good for vision; now we're told, only up to a certain amount. But how do you know you've reached the tipping point? I was only trying to replicate the Kitavan diet in my experiment.

Bad3a78e228c67a7513c28f17c36b3cf

(1387)

on January 02, 2013
at 02:27 PM

Thats very interesting. Do you eat eggs and liver?

0
673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

on May 30, 2012
at 04:45 PM

sad. I overdid kabocha pumpkins over the winter (a whole 2 pound pumpkin daily) and by spring everyone thought i had been spray tanning over the winter. i stopped the pumpkin for aesthetic reasons because unfortunately the shade looked like the spray tan gone bad. I really really miss my kabocha but now it appears i have more than an aesthetic reason to keep them at a distance. can never stop at just a little unfortunately.

0
E2db1519690001648433e8109eb2c013

on May 06, 2012
at 07:46 PM

I would have assumed that artificial supplementation was the only way to take in harmful amounts, but the amounts of carrot/sweet potato mentioned above make me wonder.

Polar bear and beaver liver are not eaten because their vitamin a content is so hight as to be potentially lethal.

Check the nutritional info on the vegetables in question, perhaps here: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ and adjust your consumption accordingly.

2fd566cefde2de38e75e1bc13a966e16

(662)

on May 06, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Those animals' livers are toxic because they have massive amounts of retinol, one of the active forms of Vitamin A. As has been mentioned here beta-carotene is converted extremely inefficiently to retinol forms, so it is not acutely toxic. The original paper is talking about potentially subtler problems with beta-carotene: totally different from acute hypervitaminosis A that can result from too much retinol consumption.

673f7ad6052448d51496f177395416b7

(344)

on May 30, 2012
at 04:58 PM

I think john's point was that natural supplementation from whole foods can still be problematic

0
F44b15b2fd1ad134200793d6b474fc4c

(938)

on May 06, 2012
at 02:50 PM

Could someone let us know which supplements contain beta-carotine? Thanks so much.

Ba09704971e33481f5716c4790648966

(1794)

on May 06, 2012
at 07:57 PM

It should say Vitamin A (As Beta-Carotene). If it says from fish oil or something, it's retinol. It usually says.

0
7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0

on May 05, 2012
at 08:32 PM

I thought beta-carotene was what your body converted into vitamin A and that it only converts as much as it needs?

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on May 05, 2012
at 09:18 PM

Ask yourself why people here keep recommending liver and fish oil (which have vitamin A with no conversion needed).

3b0b95dfc6dc5c18e535945f4aab0866

(2392)

on May 05, 2012
at 08:38 PM

Beta carotene is not efficiently converted in general. Genetics can also reduce that efficiency further - there are known genes that influence efficiency.

0
Ba09704971e33481f5716c4790648966

(1794)

on May 05, 2012
at 05:27 PM

Good timing on the study.

I was just eating a ton of carrots and sweet potatoes the last few months. I am now slowing down, stopping carrots completely.

Ran into skin problems, but they might have been due to other things like stress.

I am now decreasing my beta carotene consumption and increasing my retinol consumption.

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