When taken as a supplement, however, the National Institute of Health reports that there is limited evidence of protective effects against cancer.
Conversely, some studies have suggested the supplement may be associated with a risk of gastric and lung cancer in smokers and asbestos workers.
The Oregon State University’s website states: “Regular intake of B-carotene supplements at doses equal or greater than 20 mg/day for many years may increase the risk of stomach cancer, especially in smokers.”
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The meta-analysis drew on 13 different publications reporting on the results from nine randomized control trials.
As revealed earlier, the findings revealed an increased cancer risk in individuals taking the supplement at doses of 20 to 30 mg per day.
The Cancer Council of Australia explains that beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid, which is an important precursor to vitamin A.
“Vitamin A is essential for biochemical and physiological processes in the body including vision, reproduction, cellular differentiation and immunity,” explains the health body.
It warns, however, that there appears to be a marked interaction between beta-carotene supplements and smoking.
What’s more, research published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2007 suggests that women taking supplements containing beta-carotene have a significantly increased risk of skin cancer compared to women in a placebo group.
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“Beta-carotene supplements are unlikely to have a substantial effect on the risk of prostate and non-melanoma skin cancers,” explains the health body.
What the aforementioned studies highlight is that there may be potential dangers when taking dietary supplements administered at doses not naturally found in foods.
According to Mount Sinai, this tends to be the case for any ingredient in multiple vitamin supplements that is taken in large amounts, particularly iron or calcium supplements.
In fact, research states that fruits and vegetables rich in most phytochemicals offer modest reductions in cancer risk.
The Cancer Council of Australia therefore “recommends people obtain their nutritional requirements from whole foods, rather than individual nutrients in a supplement form, and avoid taking beta-carotene supplements, especially if they smoke”.
The molecule can be obtained from dark green leafy vegetables and certain yellow and orange colored fruits.
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