Beta-Carotene…does it increase risk of cancer?

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Question: from Marc

The WCRF have recently released the results from the research carried out looking into foods associated with increased risk of cancer. I noticed that Beta carotene is a supplement they found to increase the risk of Lung Cancer and that your Total Balance contains 5000IU of this ingredient. Please let me know whether it is still safe to be taking this supplement.

Comment: from Warren Matthews of Xtend-Life

Joanna will answer this question, but I thought that I should first make a comment. This is another example of a misleading study. There is also a world of difference between taking NATURAL Beta-Carotene in conjunction with many other co-factors such as are present in Total Balance as opposed to taking a synthetic Beta-Carotene as a single stand alone ingredient which should never be ingested in that manner. To suggest that beta-carotene in a natural form in sensible quantities is risky is a bit like saying don’t eat your carrots because you may get cancer. It is nonsense.

Answer: from Joanna (Medical Nutritionist for Xtend-Life)

The amount of beta-carotene in Total Balance is totally safe for overall health and protective purposes, most importantly for the cardio system, which is one of its goals in this formula.

Dosages of much more than 5,000IU’s have been well proven to be safe long term. As a matter of fact we are very much of the conservative side. Some companies actually use 2 – 4 times as much of this in the much cheaper synthetic form.

There has been alot of media reports in recent years on beta-carotene studies that suggested that Beta-Carotene was responsible for increased lung cancer mortality rates.

However, it has since been established that the studies these reports related to were very flawed. A related study that was used for this purpose concerned prostate cancer and vitamin intake, and I actually did an analysis of such this report not so long ago. You can read the results of this analysis here: http://blog.xtend-l...ionable-studies.html

This particular study was referred to as part of the detrimental reports against beta-carotene, and so will give you an idea of how flawed these reports were.

Now, the later study information that has been used concludes that there has is concern that beta-carotene metabolites with pharmacological activity and can accumulate and have carcinogenic effects.

This is true, but it has to be taken in context.

Beta-carotene, along with many other ingredients with good Antioxidant ability, has been shown in many studies, at correct dosage, is helpful in the prevention of many cancers - helping to boost immunity and Antioxidant action.

Components of cigarette smoke can however degrade beta-carotene, and many other ingredients, and lower concentrations of beta-carotene have indeed been reported in both active and passive smokers as a result.

This is the first issue, and actually what it is saying is that SMOKING, not beta-carotene, is depleting nutrients and therefore increasing cancer risks. Something which we all have known for many years - that smoking depletes essential nutrients, therefore putting the body at risk.

Now, it is also known that smoking might enhance production of carcinogenic oxidation of ingredients such as beta-carotene which, if not neutralized by other Antioxidant release, such as tocopherol and ascorbate, which are also often depleted in smokers, could lead to increased risk of lung cancer.

In addition, high dose beta-carotene (as with high dose of many other nutrients and pharmaceutical ingredients)might increase the binding of carcinogenic metabolites to DNA and inhibit gap-junction communication between normal cells and tumour cells.

So, what all this is saying is essentially 2-fold:

1. Smoking deletes nutrients. Nutrient depletion promotes disease, in this case lung cancer.

Beta-carotene is a known antioxidant of good value, so this, along with other Antioxidants, has been targeted as being detrimental to smokers because the antioxidant action is trying to fight the loss of natural antioxidant protection that smoking has depleted.

Surely therefore it is easy to see that it is smoking that is the problem and cause of lung cancer, not beta-carotene?!

2. Beta-carotene, in high doses, can increase disease risks. This is true, as it is with ANY element, not just beta-carotene (which has been singled out for the purpose of this study). Any nutrient or chemical, used in excess, can potentially have negative, or even opposite, effects on the body to that which it was effected for. Using beta-carotene (and any substance) in a safe and effective dose provides benefit rather than detriment.

Finally, it is well to remember that beta-carotene is available and ingested through many food sources, if you are able to ingest it naturally. Namely highest in most vegetables. You would not advise a smoker, who needs his/her nutrient replacement, to avoid fresh, raw vegetables!

I hope this helps to put your mind at rest Marc.

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4 Responses to “Beta-Carotene…does it increase risk of cancer?”

  1. [...] Read more at Dee [...]

  2. [...] Here is an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptQuestion: from Marc. The WCRF have recently released the results from the research carried out looking into foods associated with increased risk of Cancer. I noticed that Beta carotene is a Supplement they found to increase the risk of … [...]

  3. [...] Posted by as Uncategorized The WCRF have recently released the results from the research carried out looking into foods associated with increased risk of Cancer. I noticed that Beta carotene is a Supplement they found to increase the risk of Lung Cancer and that …article continues at unknown brought to you by and [...]

  4. Because of mixed results thus far with beta-carotene supplementation, I recommend getting your supply of beta-carotene from adequate supply from fruits and vegetables rich in this pro-Vitamin.

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