The Rest Of The Story
Beta Carotene has been receiving a lot of bad press lately. First, it was hailed as a great thing to take for smokers to help guard against lung cancer. Now, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
Let's see what the facts are in regard to Beta Carotene as an anti-oxidant and cancer fighter. In order to understand this, we first need to know what anti-oxidants are as well as free-radicals and their role in the body.
Free-Radicals and Anti-Oxidants
Free-Radicals are highly energized molecules that fly around under terrific force with in a cell and damage what they strike; or, they can couple to something, such as DNA in the cells of the body, creating substances mother nature never intended the body to make when new cells are produced. These new cells can become benign tumors or malignancies when the DNA is changed with a free-radical attached to it.
If the free-radical attacks the DNA molecule in such a manner that it destroys it, then you are one cell less--that cell has been killed.
A free-radical is formed in the body by the very nature of cellular processes simply taking place; but mother nature in her wisdom, also placed for every free-radical formed, substances that null and void, or make them less reactive such that little or no damage or destruction occurs. That which does is easily repaired. The harmful effects arise from free-radicals when they seek to readily grab an electron from other molecules, changing the course of a reaction in that particular cell systems management.
Substances as vitamin E and C, Genistein ( found in soy), or Lycopene found in tomatoes, or the carotenoids--a class of compounds often with pro-vitamin A activity and found in fruits and vegetables; or the body makes other kinds of chemicals, such as Glutathione Peroxidase, to lessen or stop the reactive nature of certain molecules (free-radicals) are known under the class name of Anti-Oxdiants or Free-Radical Scavengers.
They do their job by coupling with or donating an electron to the free-radical, oftentimes becoming a more or less reactive free-radical themselves. This becomes a domino effect--the reactiveness of a molecule is passed from one to another untile it is completely nulled and voided or is water soluble and washed out of the body.
The Bucket Brigade Process Of Scavenging Free-Radicals
Take for instance vitamin E. It grabs free radicals, and in doing so, it becomes a less reactive free-radical itself. A potential for damaging cellular tissues at the molecular level. But, the Carotenoids, if present from the diet in sufficient quantity, then inactivate the scavenged vitamine E product. The carotenoids now become a free-radical which is waiting for something to donate an electron to close off its unpaired electron on itself.
Vitamin C is the compound in this case that does this...and, itself also becomes a free-radical. The vitamin C, even though it loss an electron, is still water-soluble and flushed out of the body with little or no damage being done to the cells that can't be repaired without dire consequences to the organism.
What Cigarettes (smoking in general) does and necessitates.
- Cigarette smoking or smoking in general generates free-radicals harmful to the body.
- For every cigarette smoked, you need 25 mgs of vitamin C just for the cigarette itself, minimum.
- The maximum amount needed for every cigarette is 35 mgs of vitamin C.
Why The Puzzling Results in Clinical Trials With Beta Carotene And Smokers.
In England at Keele University, T. George Truscott explains the puzzlings results of beta carotene supplements towards boosting the incidence of lung cancer studies in smokers, by pointing out the following:
- Smoker's tend to be low in vitamin C.
- And as such, they don't have enough vitamin C to scavenge the carotenoid radicals.
- Giving smokers bete carotene and no vitamic C only increases the free-radicals in the body along with those radicals produced by the cigarettes.
Other Facts About Beta Carotene And Smokers from The Beta Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET) funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The beta carotene, reviewers of the study noted, that was used in the studies for smokers and lung cancer was synthetic beta carotene, which may also explain beta carotenes ineffectiveness in The Beta Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial by the National Institutes of Health.
The synthetic form of beta carotene is exclusively of the "all-trans" form; whereas the natural beta carotene is a 50-50 mixture consisting of two forms: "all-trans" and "9-cis" forms. This could affect function as well as absorption, according to the reviews of the study.
Therefore, we see two glaring factors in the beta carotene test for smokers that may be the cause for the negative test results such that the National Institutes of Health test was ended early because of those results:
Not enough vitamin C was present in the test, nor did they use a more functional and absorable form of beta carotene .
When you dont't eat from a wide-variety of fruits and vegetables, and take supplements, you are playing with your health.
Back to where you were.