Not a day goes by without news of the latest ‘antioxidant superfood’ and their health-boosting powers.
However, a recent study has suggested that too much of a good thing could be damaging our health, as researchers claim they’ve found a potentially dangerous ‘dark side’ to the ‘healthy’ pigment found in carrots.
Scientists from the Ohio State University discovered that if the body absorbs too much of the natural beta-carotene pigment mostly found in carrots (it’s what gives carrots its orange reddish colour), it partially ‘blocks’ the vitamin from metabolising in the body.
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining eye, bone and skin health, as well as keeping the immune system and metabolism healthy. If vitamin A absorption is blocked, researchers warn that it could cause a number of health hazards.
A potential danger could be an increased chance of lung cancer (as noted in a previous study), which found people who ate beta-carotene were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than those who never ate foods with the pigment.
However, although researchers claims the pigment found in carrots “represent a dark side of beta-carotene” and “could basically disrupt or at least affect the whole body metabolism and action of vitamin A”, they added that they aren't recommending individuals stop eating foods high in beta-carotene as more study is needed "to know for sure”.
The results will be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The main food sources of beta-carotene are:
- Yellow and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots and red peppers
- Yellow fruit such as mango, melon and apricots
How much beta-carotene is safe?
According to the Department of Health, people should be able to get the amount of beta-carotene they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. However, if you decide to take beta-carotene supplements, it is important not to take too many because this could be harmful.
Do not take more than 7mg of beta-carotene supplements per day - unless advised by a doctor. People who smoke or who have been exposed to asbestos are advised not to take any beta-carotene supplements.