This important enzyme is key to unlock carrots’ full potential
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by: Joy Jensen, staff writer | January 16, 2021
(NaturalHealth365) Beta-carotene is the compound in carrots that give them their brilliant orange color. This bioactive compound is a precursor to vitamin A, which is essential for many body processes.
Vitamin A is essential for preserving eyesight and protects against age-related vision decline. Studies show it lowers the risk of certain types of cancer, including bladder, cervical, and lung cancers. It is also key to a healthy immune system and supports bone health.
While carrots offer an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be transformed into vitamin A, a new study found that the body requires an active enzyme to produce the vitamin and unlock the health benefits of carrots.
Enzyme helps convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, but it’s less active in some people
Researchers uncovered evidence that shows beta-carotene helps protect against atherosclerosis development by reducing bad cholesterol levels. However, scientists have conducted further studies to better understand the impact of beta-carotene on heart health. They discovered that a special enzyme – beta-carotene oxygenase 1 (BCO1) – aids in converting beta-carotene into vitamin A within the body. A specific genetic variation determines whether individuals have a less active or more active version of this enzyme.
Researchers looked more closely at the link between BCO1 activity and cholesterol levels to get a better idea of how the enzyme affects different individuals’ ability to unlock the benefits of beta-carotene. They discovered that individuals who had a more active version of the BCO1 enzyme had lower cholesterol levels. Cholesterol was higher among those who had lower levels of vitamin A.
While about 50 percent of the population has the more active BCO1 enzyme that makes it easier for the body to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, the other half has the less-active variant of this enzyme. This means that their body will produce vitamin A at a slower rate from plant sources.
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You may need vitamin A from additional sources
These findings show that some people may need to make sure they get vitamin A from other sources instead of just plants. Some excellent non-plant sources of vitamin A include:
- Cod liver oil
- Beef liver
- Goose liver pate
- King mackerel
- Goat cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs
Keep in mind that vitamin A happens to be a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it is stored in the body, and consuming too much can result in toxic levels of the vitamin. In addition, when it comes to animal food sources (listed above), always consider the value of buying wild, grass-fed, pasture-raised and/or organic options to avoid unwanted toxins.
Of course, toxic levels are rarely caused by excessive dietary intake and are usually a result of overconsumption of supplements or medicines. Always talk to your healthcare professional before taking a vitamin A supplement.
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