Beta carotene was first suggested as a protection against illness when studies found that people with who ate lots of fruits and vegetables containing the nutrient were at lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Patients who regularly took beta carotene pills did not have "statistically significant" fewer cancers or heart disease deaths. The study involved 20,000 women who received beta carotene pills and 20,000 women who took a placebo, or a fake pill. After four years, there were 378 cancers among the beta carotene group and 369 cancers in the placebo group. For cardiovascular disease, there were 42 heart attacks in the beta carotene group and 50 in the placebo group. Cardiovascular deaths were 14 for the beta carotene group and 12 for the placebo group.
COMMENT: Yet another study confirming the initial observations and somewhat surprising observations several years ago that the highly touted beta carotene did not have a lower risk of cancer. The general consensuses of the experts I have reviewed believe this is largely related to the fact that the beta carotene was synthetic. This is another strong reason why I don?t generally advise people to take multiple vitamins as many of them contain synthetic vitamins which actually cause more harm than good. Additionally, it is very easy to become allergic to a product that has 20 to 50 different items in it. All one has to do is become sensitive to one of them and the whole multi-vitamin pill becomes counter productive, actually causing more harm than good. Beta carotene supplements from natural sources are likely to actually decrease cancer and heart disease. However, I do not recommend beta carotene as a supplement as that is one of the easiest nutrients to get from your diet. All one has to do is eat a variety of colored vegetables and you will get more than enough beta carotene to decrease disease risk.