Beta-carotenes belong to a group of provitamins, which are related to vitamin A, called carotenoids. Carotenoids are plant pigments, which are mainly responsible for bright colors (red, orange, and yellow) in many fruits & vegetables. Carotenoids also have fat soluble nutrients with antioxidant properties. There are over 500 types of carotenoids. The most common ones are beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and more.
Among all the carotenoids, beta-carotene is the most popular owing to its advantage over other carotenoids. Beta-carotenes are colored (reddish-violet, orange, yellow) pigments, which imparts color to plants. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A. When it enters the digestive system of a human or animal, the body converts it into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is fat-soluble antioxidant, which does not accumulate in the body to the toxic levels as vitamin A does. Moreover, it plays a significant role as an antioxidant in maintaining the health of cells in humans and animals.
Initially, beta-carotene was only derived synthetically. Synthetic beta-carotenes are manufactured from benzene, which extracted from acetylene gas. Beta-carotene derived synthetically has no nutritional value. Moreover, it is also considered as a cancer-causing substance. Various similar disadvantages of synthetically manufactured beta-carotene have resulted in a rise in the market for naturally-derived beta-carotene. Naturally, beta-carotene is derived from algae, fruits & vegetables, fungus, palm oil, and by fermentation of microorganisms.
Beta-carotenes are widely used as antioxidants, colorants, and nutrition supplements in food & beverages, pharmaceutical & dietary supplements, personal care & cosmetics, and animal feed industries. Beta-carotene has various health benefits such as it prevents certain cancers, reduces the risk of heart diseases, and is also beneficial in preventing problems such as asthma, arthritis, and skin disorders.
Globally, companies are trying to develop new & improved products to increase the productivity and usage of beta-carotene. Some of the products and technologies recently adopted in the industry are Genetic modification project (GM project) and OxC-beta Livestock.
In Genetic Modification project, scientists are working toward developing genetically modified crops, which can be beneficial to humans. Some of the products under GM project are genetically modified insulin and Golden Rice that produces beta-carotene, from which Vitamin A is formed. In the Golden Rice project, scientists have produced golden colored rice through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene.
Humans require beta-carotene to form Vitamin A. The major advantage of golden rice project is that it can be used in regions where vitamin A deficiency is common. However, there are some issues associated with the GM project, including the health risks associated with GM foods. For example, a GM food might contain some substances that can cause an allergic reaction in some people or higher levels of a toxin naturally found in the food.
Despite all the advantages and benefits of beta-carotene, its excessive use can cause some side effects. Some of these side effects are skin discoloration, loose stools, bruising, and joint pain. Beta-carotene does have its advantages and disadvantages. However, it is still believed to be a remarkable health supplement for both humans and animals.
In-depth report on global beta-carotene market by Grand View Research: