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Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble carotenoid found in plants, and is what gives carrots their orange colour. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol) and is a safe source of vitamin A because your body only converts as much as it needs. Excess vitamin A can be toxic. Vitamin A is important for the normal reproduction of cells (cellular differentiation) as well as good vision and the proper development of an embryo and fetus. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant so protects the body from damaging free radicals. Sources of beta-carotene include carrots, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash and broccoli.

What might a low result mean?

Low levels of beta-carotene may indicate that you are not consuming enough vitamin A. However, it may instead be that your body is not absorbing the vitamins properly. This can occur in those with conditions such as pancreatitis, coeliac disease, and cystic fibrosis.

What might a high result mean?

Elevated levels of beta-carotene may indicate hypervitaminosis A, which is caused by consuming excess amounts of vitamin A. This may happen if you eat too much fish or liver, but can also be caused by long term use of particular acne treatments.