Beta-Carotene No Longer Viewed as 'Miracle Antioxidant'

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Do I need to take a beta-carotene supplement?

Beta-Carotene No Longer Viewed as 'Miracle Antioxidant'

Beta-carotene was once believed to be the "miracle antioxidant," touted for its abilities to reduce cancer and heart disease risk. Although carrots and other vegetables which contain beta-carotene are indeed beneficial for health, it's been determined that beta-carotene itself, in supplement form, has little ability to reduce cancer or heart disease.

The Beta Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial or CARET, was a National Cancer Institute study conducted in the United States. It examined whether the combination of beta carotene and vitamin A would lower incidents of lung cancer in smokers or former smokers. The study was never completed, however, because researchers found an 18 percent higher incidence of cancer in those taking the supplements. They advised volunteers to stop taking the pills.

The findings of this study, while startling, cannot be applied to non-smokers. In fact, another study followed 22,000 male doctors who took beta-carotene over a period of 12 years. This study found no particular benefit or harm of beta-carotene.

In summary, it's easiest to stay healthy by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Do that and you needn't worry about taking questionable supplements.

   

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