A study of about 15,000 adults over the age of 20 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found a link between levels of alpha-carotene and a reduced risk of premature death. The risk of premature death fell from 39 percent to 23 percent as alpha-carotene levels increased in the blood.
The study’s researchers said they accounted for other factors which contribute to longer life spans in the subjects such as lifestyle habits, other health risks, and demographics to identify how much alpha-carotene might contribute to lowering the risk of premature death. However, alpha-carotene is similar enough to other carotenes, like the beta form, so it can’t be absolutely said that higher alpha-carotene levels guarantee a longer life, because this specific study wasn’t able to measure the contributions coming from other carotenes.
“Alpha-carotene has a lot of overlapping chemical properties with beta-carotene, as well as the same perceived mechanisms of effect.” In fact, it’s hard to disentangle the two from each other. They tend to travel together,” said Howard Sesso from the Harvard School of Public Health. (Source: Reuters.com)
The good news is, if you are eating orange and dark green vegetables containing beta-carotene, there’s a good chance they also contain alpha-carotene, so you are getting both. The bad news is, if you aren’t eating foods containing beta-carotene you may not be getting alpha-carotene in your diet either.
Alpha-carotene is an antioxidant, and is believed to protect DNA from damage caused by the process of oxidation. Oxygen reacts with cells, causing damage. When the damaged cells continue to make copies of themselves, it results in abnormal cells or mutations. The damaged cells injure healthy ones, and so can contribute to degenerative diseases such a cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Antioxidants like alpa- and beta-carotene, vitamin C and others protect cells from DNA damage, theoretically. “This study does continue to prove the point there’s a lot of things in food — mainly in fruits and vegetables that are orange or kind of red in color — that are good for us,” said Lona Sandon, a dietician and professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. (Source: IBT.com)
Additionally, there has been research conducted about the possibility that alpha-carotene and other carotenoids enhance communication between cells, which is thought to perhaps reduce the development of cancer. Other research has focused on the anti-tumor potential of alpha-carotene. “Alpha-carotene shows the strongest anti-tumor activity on human neuroblastoma GOTO cells. Alpha-carotene also shows stronger anti-proliferative activity than that of beta-carotene on other human malignant cancer cells; pancreatic cancer (PANC-1), glioblastoma (A172), and gastric cancer (HGC-27),” said Dr. Michiaki Murakoshi, a researcher in the Department of biochemistry at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine (Japan) and Research Manager of the Oleochemistry Research Center of the Lion Corporation in Tokyo. (Source: Drpasswater.com)
Alpha carotene is found in foods such as carrots, swiss chard, cilantro, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, kiwi and mango.