a-Carotene, another carotenoid frequently present in food, also has provitamin A activity. Based on its structure, it is only converted to one molecule of biologically active retinol after central cleavage. Like other carotenoids, it has antioxidant and possibly anticarcinogenic properties, and may enhance immune function as well. Some, but not all, epide-miological studies observed that higher a-carotene intake was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, whereas others did not. Clinical trials to test a-carotene influences in humans have not been conducted to date. This is probably because a-carotene is usually associated with ample amounts of fi-carotene when found in fruits and vegetables and singling out a-carotene is difficult.
a-Carotene's concentration is especially high in orange carrots. Low or high dietary intake of a-carotene alone has not been associated with any specific disease outcome or health condition.
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