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Beta-carotene Overdose

Beta-carotene Overdose

Beta-carotene overdose is mostly caused due to excessive administration of carotene in the form of supplements or food. Common symptoms of this condition include allergies, change of skin color, medication interaction, and higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2018
To avoid an overdose, it is suggested that supplements should only be used temporarily to treat a specific condition, and then discontinued.

Beta-carotene, symbolized as β-Carotene, is a common and well-known form of carotenoids, that are lipophilic (fat-soluble) in nature. The body stores it in the fat tissues. It is an important precursor of vitamin A, which means that the body uses beta-carotene as a source for the synthesizing of vitamin A. Some forms of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which can be converted into retinol, are collectively referred to as provitamin A carotenoids.

The major function of Beta-carotene is to help form a substance called 'rhodopsin', which is very essential for good vision. Beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant, thus preventing the damaging effects of free radicals, and slowing down the aging process. It also boosts the immune system by keeping the inner linings and membranes of the body intact, and by making it resistant to infections.

The highly conjugated structure of beta-carotene is responsible for imparting a dark yellow to orange color in many fruits and vegetables. In fact, you can easily identify beta-carotene rich foods from their deep coloration. Some of the healthy beta-carotene sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, and other green, leafy vegetables. Apart from these food sources, beta-carotene supplements are available in the market. Let's take a look at the benefits and effects of overdose of beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene Benefits

Beta-carotene is crucial for the normal functioning of the human body. Mainly, it prevents the deficiency of vitamin A. Some of the important beta-carotene benefits are as follows:
➜ Formation of bones and teeth
➜ Promoting the immune system
➜ Treating exercise-induced asthma
➜ Treating psoriasis and other skin problems
➜ Minimizing the risk of cataract
➜ Treating arthritis
➜ Combating depression
➜ Reducing high blood pressure
As beta-carotene is a primary precursor of vitamin A, its supplements are often recommended for combating the deficiency symptoms of vitamin A, such as skin rash disorders, vision problems, weakened immune system, and at times, night blindness.

Overdose of Beta-carotene

As we have discussed earlier, beta-carotene plays an important role in maintaining the correct levels of vitamin A in the body. However, are you aware of beta-carotene toxicity, that is a result of excessive administration of beta-carotene supplement? Following are some of the excessive beta-carotene symptoms.

Allergic Reactions
Those who are sensitive to dietary products related to carotene and vitamin A, are discouraged from beta-carotene supplements. Rather, they should consume food sources rich in beta-carotene. Failure to do so may result in allergic reactions such as skin problems, headaches, and dizziness.

Skin Discoloration
One of the most noticeable beta-carotene overdose symptoms is skin discoloration. The body parts that are prone to change of skin color include palm, soles of the feet, and face. Nevertheless, this yellowish coloration of skin is a temporary symptom, which subsides within a few days, and is known as carotenodermia.

Medication Interaction
Beta-carotene, like any other antioxidant, is proven to interfere with other medications (especially, if taken at the same time). It may reduce the body's ability to absorb the chemicals properly, hence minimizing the therapeutic effects of other medicines. Considering this, one should seek advice from the concerned physician about the current drugs and medications, prior to taking beta-carotene supplements. Extra caution should be exercised when taking anti-coagulants, as high dosages of beta-carotene can reduce their effectiveness.

Risk Factors

People who indulge in the habit of heavy smoking, should abstain from taking beta-carotene supplements. Clinical studies have proven that taking β-carotene supplements increase the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and prostate cancer in smokers. However, such side effects are not observed while consuming beta-carotene rich foods.

Signs of overdose

Some observed signs of beta-carotene overdose are menstruation becoming irregular and generalized fatigue. Blurring of vision, loss of hair, and paining of bones also accompany. A sense of nausea, headache, and diarrhea also sometimes persist. If you experience any of these signs, it is recommended that you show a doctor and not self-diagnose!

Safety Precautions

Administration of high dosage of beta-carotene supplements in children should be done under strict medical supervision. Also, there is insufficient clinical data regarding the safety of beta-carotene supplementation in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Thus, on the safer side, one should always consult the physician prior to taking beta-carotene supplements.

The amount of beta-carotene assimilated in the body depends upon several factors, such as the form of the food item that has been ingested (raw or cooked), the consumption of fats at that time, and the level of vitamin A in the body. Also, beta-carotene side effects rarely occur in people who have incorporated beta-carotene food sources in their diet. In other words, those who take excess amounts of carotene supplements are at a higher risk of beta-carotene overdose than others. On a concluding note, beta-carotene is safe, if taken in recommended dosage and under medical supervision.