Beta carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A, is the precursor of vitamin A. It the pigment that imparts bright, vibrant hues to fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, etc. When ingested, beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the small intestine of mammals. Vitamin A is required by our body to maintain good vision and healthy skin and teeth.
Beta carotene belongs to the group pigments known as carotenoids and it possesses antioxidant properties. Antioxidants like beta carotene protect the body cells by inhibiting their oxidation by free radicals. Thus, antioxidants provide protection against a number of health conditions.
Antioxidants basically empower our immune system to protect our body cells against free radicals and thus, reduce the risks of diseases like cancer and heart disease. This is the reason why the demand for beta-carotene supplements has been increasing over the years.
Beta carotene is naturally found in a number of fruits, vegetables, and herbs and spices like carrots, apricots, broccoli, peas, chives, onions, plums, spinach, peppers, chili powder, and parsley. It can also be synthetically manufactured in the laboratory. Naturally, it is derived from fruits, vegetables, algae, fungus, palm oil, and from the fermentation of microorganisms.
Research has indicated that a diet rich in beta carotene may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. Pre-menopausal women are usually considered to have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The daily intake of beta carotene along with Vitamin C, E, and Zinc may help prevent the loss of vision and worsening of age-related macular degeneration as well.
Some other conditions in which the intake of beta carotene may prove helpful are exercise-induced asthma attacks, oral leukoplakia, osteoarthritis, and sunburn. Apart from these, it may help prevent the complications associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Excess beta carotene is deposited in the fat tissues. Beta carotene is usually considered a safe source of vitamin A and its excess intake usually does not cause any major side effect. The most common side effect associated with the over intake of beta carotene is carotenodermia, a harmless condition that just imparts an orange tint to the skin due to the accumulation of carotenoid in the epidermis. However, an excess intake of beta carotene supplement is not advisable as an overdose of some supplements may cause diarrhoea, joint pain, and other side effects.
Apart from the food & beverage industry, beta carotene has found several applications in end-use industries like pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, animal feed industry, and personal care & cosmetics industry. It is basically used as a nutritional supplement and a colouring agent. The beta carotene market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years due to the rising demand from the end-use industries.
The global beta carotene market is predicted to grow at a rate of 3.5% during the period from 2018 to 2023. More and more industries are opting for microalgae-derived beta carotene production method, as this method of production does not generate any waste, saves energy, and does not produce any ecologically harmful effects, and is also sustainable.