Beta-carotene belongs to the family of carotenoids, which are found in different colours such as red, orange and yellow. Beta-carotene is fat soluble that supply vitamin A to our body.  Beta-carotene and other carotenoids provide approximately 50% of the vitamin A needed in the diet. There are other carotenoids as well that help our body to perform different functions. Beta-carotene is converted to retinol, which is essential for vision and is subsequently converted to retinoic acid, which is used for processes involving growth and cell differentiation.

Beta-carotene and other carotenes are found in fruits and vegetables that are orange, red or yellow in colour. The term ‘carotene’ was given by the scientist named Wachenroder after he discovered it from the roots of the carrots.

Beta- carotenes are antioxidant, and they help in preventing different diseases. Some of the important functions of Beta-carotene in the human body are discussed below:

Beta carotene slow down memory reduction
A research done by students from Harvard Medical School suggested in Archives of Internal medicine that those men who continuously take beta-carotene for ten to fifteen years experience fewer changes of memory reduction. They found that increase of stress is the key factor that causes memory reduction and supplementation of anti-oxidants such as Beta-carotene help to slow down the memory reduction. It is found to be an effective supplement for people with Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Cancer prevention
Some researchers believe that beta-carotene is also useful in establishing useful communication between different cells of our body. They said that overgrowth of cells takes place due to poor cell communication that leads to cancer. Beta-carotene increase cell communication and prevents cancer of different parts of the body. 
Tomatoes are rich in lycopenes, a valuable carotenoid that helps in the prevention of prostate, colon and bladder cancer. 
Beta-carotene is also an excellent supplement for preventing ovarian and breast cancer in women. Beta-carotene seems to be especially effective for women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer, including those with a family history.
People who use tobacco or alcohol may suffer from mouth lesions. A study was done, and found that people with mouth cancer have fewer symptoms if they take beta-carotene. It is advised that beta-carotene for prevention of mouth cancer should be taken after consulting with their physician.
A study was published in the journal of the National cancer Institute that involved adult females. It was found during the study that non-smokers that take high beta-carotene foods in their diet are at a lower risk of lung cancer. 

Prevents progression of macular degeneration
A study was done related to age related eye disease and it was found that people with macular degeneration can reduce the progression of this eye disease by regular intake of foods rich in beta-carotene.

Metabolic Syndrome
Another study done in 2009 discovered that high intake of beta-carotene along with other carotenoids help to prevent metabolic syndrome. It is also found that middle aged men and elderly people who take beta carotene have low body fat and triglycerides measures.

Asthma and Emphysema
Research shows that Beta-carotene along with CoQ10 helps to prevent asthma induced by exercise. “Natural Standard” gave a report that compounds similar to beta-carotene help in the treatment of lung diseases such as emphysema. More studies are being done to find the efficacy of beta-carotene in prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

Food sources
Important food sources for beta-carotene include green leafy fruits and vegetables. These include tomatoes, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc. These fruits and vegetables are generally orange, yellow or red in colour.
Fruits rich in beta-carotene are mango, guava, watermelon, plum, etc.
Herbs and Spices such as parsley, oregano, chili powder, basil, and paprika are also rich in beta-carotene.
Pistachio and walnuts are also rich sources of beta-carotene.

It is recommended that 15-50mg of beta-carotene should be taken every day. This amount of beta-carotene is sufficiently present in natural fruits and vegetables.

Beta-carotene is generally obtained from our diet but people who want to take supplements in the form of pills should consult their physician. No side effects are reported but people who smoke or drink should avoid taking beta-carotene supplements or they should take it under the strict supervision of their physician.

There are some drugs, which may interact with beta-carotene. Drugs such as Lipitor, colestipol, orlistat may have interactions with beta-carotene. People using such drugs should consult their doctor to measure the amount of beta-carotene they can take along with these drugs.