Health risks arise from a lack of beta-carotene and not from oversupply, experts concluded at a Nutrition Conference.
In Germany and the UK, the general population is not obtaining sufficient beta-carotene through diet alone and thus cannot benefit from the essential protective functions offered by pro-vitamin A, leading experts in the fields of medical science and nutritional science stated at a conference in Stuttgart, Germany (1).
Concerning the repeated discussion of the safety of beta-carotene, the researchers explained that the only potential for danger existed in the case of extremely high doses of beta-carotene (10 to 15 times the recommended daily allowance) consumed over years by smokers, although even for this segment of the population a daily consumption of up to 10 mg would still be harmless.
For the general health of the larger population, however, the nutrition experts saw the risks posed by the negative consequences of insufficient vitamin A supply, for example to the immune system, as being particularly grave – and this must be combated with the adequate intake of beta-carotene. As the average consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as liver, in Germany and the UK is not sufficient for this, and a significant increase in future consumption is not foreseeable, vitamin supplements and foodstuffs enriched with beta-carotene, such as ACE drinks, are a good and safe way to improve health, as long as they do not contain extreme amounts of pro-vitamin A, the scientists concluded.
Besides its function as a natural skin protector against intense sun (UV radiation) exposure, beta-carotene is extremely important as a precursor (pro-vitamin) of vitamin A, which the body requires to keep immune defences functioning well. The Germans and British get almost half of their supply of vitamin A through the pro-vitamin. National surveys have shown that a large number of people do not obtain enough pure vitamin A through food. For this reason, up to 70 percent of vitamin A supply has to be insured through beta-carotene intake.