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Baby Carrots May Help Boost Immunity and Prevent Disease

Posted by Triple Naturals I On Jul 02, 2024
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Just 3 servings of baby carrots added to your weekly snack rotation could bolster your overall health and reduce your risk of cancer.

Young adults who ate baby carrots three times a week significantly increased skin carotenoids, an immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory plant nutrient, according to findings presented at NUTRITION 2024, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 29–July 2 in Chicago.

Levels of carotenoids increased even more when people took a supplement containing beta carotene, also a carotenoid, in addition to eating carrots.

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About 9 out of 10 Americans don’t get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, according to the study authors. 

“Our findings show that in young adults, a small and manageable change to their diet could increase skin carotenoid accumulation,” says Suresh Mathews, PhD, a professor and the chair of nutrition and dietetics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. 

What Are Carotenoids and Why Do They Matter?

Carotenoids are responsible for the bright red, orange, and yellow colors of many fruits and vegetables. They can be measured in the skin to gauge fruit and vegetable consumption, because diet is the only source of these pigments.

“They have two important roles in health,” says Dave Bridges, PhD, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the study.

“One is that they provide us with the thing that can become vitamin A, and the other is that they work as antioxidants,” he says. 

Vitamin A is important for normal vision, immune function, reproduction, and growth and development.

Antioxidants help protect human cells from damage caused by free radicals — unstable molecules produced naturally by the body as a result of metabolism. Left unchecked, free radicals can cause a condition called oxidative stress, which can lead to numerous illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

Higher levels of skin carotenoids are associated with improved immune function and better skin health, including lower incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, says Dr. Mathews.

Participants Ate ½ Cup of Carrots 3 Times a Week


For this study, investigators aimed to find out if eating baby carrots just three times a week had measurable benefits in carotenoid levels and how that might compare with the effect of beta-carotene supplements, which are also designed to raise levels of the antioxidants. 

Researchers randomly assigned 60 young adults to groups that received four weeks of either 100 grams (g) (about half a cup) of baby carrots; a multivitamin supplement containing beta-carotene; a combination of baby carrots and the supplement; or 100 g of Granny Smith apple slices (the control group). 

Before and after the diet intervention, scientists measured participants’ carotenoid levels using an instrument called a VeggieMeter, a validated tool that uses light waves to measure carotenoids in a person’s skin. 

Compared with pre-intervention levels, skin carotenoid scores significantly increased, by 10.8 percent in the group who received the baby carrots alone and by 21.6 percent in the group receiving the carrots and the supplement.

Skin carotenoid levels did not change in the control group or in those who received only the supplement.

Carrots and Supplements May Have a Synergistic Effect

The study revealed potential differences in how carotenoids are absorbed by the body depending on whether they are from food or supplements, says Mathews. 

These findings suggest that a multivitamin that contains beta-carotene in combination with carrots in the diet might have a synergistic effect and help a person absorb more carotenoids in total, “something we call bioavailability, says Dr. Bridges.

“It is not always the case, but generally speaking, it’s easier for your body to absorb nutrients and vitamins by eating nutritious foods compared to taking a supplement,” he says. 

How Much Vitamin A and Carotenoids Should People Get? 

In the United States, vitamin A deficiency is very rare, Bridges says. There are even some risks in getting too much vitamin A, ranging from severe headache and blurred vision to coma and death.

Vitamin A doses are measured in micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE). Nutrition researchers recommend that adult females get 700 mcg of RAE; men, 900 mcg RAE. The upper limit for adults 19 and older is 3,000 mcg, but there are no upper limits for beta-carotene and other plant nutrients that the body uses to make vitamin A.

“It isn’t really established that for someone sufficient in vitamin A, consuming more carotenoids would have added health benefits,” Bridges notes. 

But if someone is eating very few fruits and vegetables, then following the protocol in the study by taking a supplement and eating carrots may be helpful, he says. 

The authors acknowledge that one limitation of this investigation is that it was done in young adults. “Additional research will need to be conducted to study effects in other population groups, and understand long-term effects,” says Mathews.

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Are Baby Carrots Healthier Than Regular Carrots? 

Fun fact: Baby carrots and regular carrots are essentially the same thing. Baby carrots are chunks of whole carrots that have been peeled, cut into two-inch pieces, and bagged. 

These snacks didn’t exist until the 1990s, but once they hit store shelves, carrot consumption in the United States more than doubled.

Today baby carrots account for 70 percent of all carrots purchased.

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    1. Simmons M et al. Effect of a Four-Week Intervention Using Baby Carrots or Multivitamin Supplements on Skin-Carotenoid Scores in Young Adults. NUTRITION 2024. June 29–July 2, 2024.
    2. End of the Rainbow: The Health Benefits of Carotenoids. Cleveland Clinic. July 12, 2023.
    3. Vitamin A and Carotenoids. National Institutes of Health. August 12, 2022.
    4. The Secret Behind Baby Carrots. CBS News. November 20, 2022.

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