Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it safe to take beta-carotene supplements?"
I was contemplating using beta-carotene to enhance my skin, as I avoid the sun. However, I have read about the negative side effects of the compound for smokers at a dose of around 30mg. I would be taking a dose of 15mg. My concern is that I suffered second-hand smoke at home for ten years while growing up but have been free of such for the past six years (I also have exercise-induced asthma). Would it be safe for me to take beta-carotene?
I recommend you discuss this supplement with your primary care doctor. In general, it is not possible to determine which supplements are safe or pose a specific danger without knowing the full details of your medical history. Supplements are not tightly controlled by the FDA. A recent study has shown that many supplements do not actually contain the product they profess to contain. In some cases, they contain known toxins. As such, I do not generally recommend taking supplements that are not specifically recommended by your physician. Beta-carotene in particularly has received quite a bit of negative press in past years. Multiple studies have shown no benefit to beta-carotene supplementation. Specifically, beta carotene is associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular events in those with exposure to smoke or asbestos. These studies did not specifically study second-hand smoke. However, given the known dangerous side effects of beta-carotene with no proven benefits, I see little benefit and potential serious harm in taking this supplement, even at a decreased dose. Again, I recommend you discuss this with your physician, as well. Additionally, if there is a specific concern you have about your skin, your physician can help determine if there is a skin disease causing this issue.
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