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Food should provide all the minerals and nutrients the body needs to function but some people choose to take supplements too. Taking nutritional supplements may seem benign but they can carry risks, not least because it is easy to take too much. One nutritional supplement that comes with a health warning is beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour.
It’s turned into vitamin A in the body, so it can perform the same jobs in the body as vitamin A.
You should be able to get all the amount of beta-carotene you need from your daily diet but some people choose to take supplements.
A review of the literature on beta-carotene supplementation and health outcomes advises against taking beta-carotene supplements, however.
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According to the review, published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book, “large-scale, randomised cancer prevention trials have mainly been negative, with some notable adverse and beneficial effects”.
The review states that these trials showed that beta-carotene increases the risk of lung and stomach cancer.
The review also found that vitamin E increases prostate cancer and colorectal adenoma – a benign tumour composed of abnormal glands of the large bowel.
Elsewhere, beta-carotene supplements have been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke or have been heavily exposed to asbestos at work.
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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has also issued important advice about taking beta-carotene supplements.
According to DHSC, you should be able to get the amount of beta-carotene you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
“If you decide to take beta-carotene supplements, it’s important not to take too much as this could be harmful,” the health body advises.
It continues: “Do not take more than 7mg of beta-carotene supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.
“People who smoke or who have been exposed to asbestos are advised not to take any beta-carotene supplements.”
The main food sources of beta-carotene are:
Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer.
In the UK, more than one in four cancer deaths (over 25 percent) are caused by smoking.
According to Macmillan Cancer Support, breathing in other people’s smoke (passive smoking) also increases your risk of developing cancer.
“Keep your home smoke-free to protect you and your family’s health. If you smoke, giving up is one of the most important things you can do for your health.”
The charity adds: “Eating a balanced diet is good for your overall health and helps reduce your risk of some cancers. It can also help you to keep to a healthy weight.”
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