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Drugs

Side Effects
Serious

No serious side effects are associated with beta-carotene.
Common

Yellowing of the palms, hands, or soles of feet, and, in some cases, the face.
Less Common

No less common side effects are associated with the use of beta-carotene.
Beta-Carotene


Drug Class:
Dietary supplement

Available OTC?: Yes

Available Generic?: Yes

Available In
Why Prescribed
How It Works
Range and Frequency
Onset of Effect
Duration of Action
Dietary Advice
Storage
Missed Dose
Stopping the Drug
Prolonged Use
Over 60
Driving and Hazardous Work
Alcohol
Pregnancy
Breast Feeding
Infants and Children
Special Concerns
Overdose Symptoms
What to Do
Drug Interactions
Food Interactions
Disease Interactions


Available In
Capsules, tablets

Why Prescribed
Beta-carotene is a natural source of vitamin A. While most Americans get sufficient amounts of vitamin A in their diet, beta-carotene may be prescribed as a dietary supplement for people with certain medical conditions that increase the need for the vitamin. Such conditions include cystic fibrosis, long-term chronic illness, chronic diarrhea, and intestinal malabsorption. A profound deficiency of vitamin A (which occurs very rarely) can lead to night blindness. It may also lead to skin problems, dry eyes and eye infections, and slowed growth. Beta-carotene may also be prescribed in larger doses to reduce the severity of photosensitive reactions (heightened sensitivity to sunlight) that occur in patients with a rare inherited disorder known as erythopoietic protoporphyria. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that has been prescribed to prevent atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, but beta-carotene supplements did not reduce the incidence of heart attacks in three large clinical trials.

How It Works
Approximately half of ingested beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the intestine. The rest is absorbed unchanged and is stored in various tissues especially fat.

Range and Frequency
As a dietary supplement-- Adults and teenagers: 6 to 15 mg a day. Children: 3 to 6 mg a day. To treat erythopoietic porphyria-- 30 to 300 mg a day.

Onset of Effect
Unknown.

Duration of Action
Unknown.

Dietary Advice
It is best taken with meals.

Storage
Store in a tightly sealed container away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Do not refrigerate beta-carotene, and keep it from freezing.

Missed Dose
There is no danger in doubling the next dose if you miss a scheduled dose.

Stopping the Drug
Take it as prescribed. If beta-carotene is prescribed for a specific medical condition, the decision to stop taking it should be made in consultation with your physician.

Prolonged Use
No known problems.

Over 60
No special precautions are warranted.

Driving and Hazardous Work
No precautions are necessary.

Alcohol
No special precautions are necessary.

Pregnancy
Beta-carotene has not been studied in pregnant women, but no problems with fertility or pregnancy have been reported in women taking up to 30 mg of beta-carotene a day. The effects of higher daily doses are unknown.

Breast Feeding
Beta-carotene may pass into breast milk, although problems have not been documented with the intake of normal recommended amounts. Consult your doctor for advice.

Infants and Children
No problems have been reported with the intake of recommended amounts of beta-carotene.

Special Concerns
Beta-carotene is found in carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and winter squash. Be sure to eat a proper, balanced diet to obtain adequate amounts of beta-carotene from foods. Some fat is needed so that the body can absorb beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is safer than vitamin A because high doses of vitamin A can be harmful. If high levels of vitamin A are present, less beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A by the body.

Overdose Symptoms
None have been reported.

What to Do
An overdose of beta-carotene is unlikely to be dangerous. Emergency instructions do not apply.

Drug Interactions
Consult your doctor for specific advice if you are taking cholestyramine or colestipol (cholesterol-lowering drugs), mineral oil, neomycin (an antibiotic), or vitamin E.

Food Interactions
No known food interactions.

Disease Interactions
If you have any medical problems, consult your doctor before taking beta-carotene. Large doses of beta-carotene may cause complications in patients with liver disease or kidney disease.

Date Published: 04/13/2005
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