160a Carotene

Posted 21 Oct 2023
160a Carotene

What is carotene, and where is it used?

Carotene, E160a, is a pigment found in various fruits and vegetables that gives them their vibrant orange and yellow colours [1-3]. Carotene serves as a precursor to vitamin A, an essential nutrient for vision, immune function, and cell growth. It belongs to a group of plant compounds called carotenoids. Carotene is commonly found in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes, and pumpkins.

Carotene is used in various industries and applications:

  • Food industry: carotene has a wide application as a natural food colouring agent [4]. Its vibrant hues make it an ideal choice for enhancing the colour of various food and beverage products. You can find carotene used in a range of items, including soft drinks, candies, cereals, desserts, and processed snacks. It adds an appealing visual element to these products, making them more attractive to consumers.

  • Medications and supplements: carotene may be found in the form of vitamin A or as a dietary supplement for its potential health benefits [5]. 

  • Cosmetic industry: carotene may be used in skincare and makeup products, to provide colour and to enhance the appearance of various formulations [6].

Purported Health Benefits

  • Vision Support: Carotene plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision [2-3, 5]. It helps to protect the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) from oxidative damage caused by harmful free radicals. By doing so, carotene supports overall eye health and function. It is particularly beneficial for night vision, helping you see more clearly in low-light conditions. Furthermore, carotene may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that affects the central part of the retina and can lead to vision loss.

  • Immune System Boost: Carotene contributes to a robust immune system, which is essential for defending the body against infections and diseases [1-3]. It acts as an antioxidant, neutralising harmful free radicals that can damage immune cells. By protecting immune cells, carotene helps to maintain their optimal function, enabling them to effectively combat pathogens and support overall immune health.

  • Skin Health: Carotene plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin [1, 6]. It helps to maintain the integrity of skin cells, protecting them from damage caused by environmental factors like UV radiation and pollution. Carotene also supports the production of collagen, a protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin. By promoting collagen synthesis, carotene contributes to a youthful appearance, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Recommendations for Safe Consumption

  • Consuming a variety of carotene-rich foods can be beneficial for overall health and well-being. To ensure safe consumption, it is recommended to include a balanced mix of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Aim for a colourful plate by incorporating orange and yellow produce like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes, as well as leafy greens like spinach and kale. 

  • While carotene consumption offers numerous health benefits, it's important to note that excessive intake can lead to a condition called carotenemia, which can manifest as yellowing of the skin [3, 5]. To ensure safe consumption, it is recommended to obtain carotene from natural food sources rather than relying solely on supplements.

  • Cooking methods such as steaming or roasting can help enhance the absorption of carotene [7]. These cooking methods break down the plant's cell walls, making carotene more accessible for absorption during digestion. Steaming vegetables helps retain their nutrient content, while roasting adds flavour without significant nutrient loss. It's important to avoid overcooking or high temperatures that can degrade carotene. By incorporating steamed or roasted vegetables into your meals, you can optimise carotene absorption and enjoy its benefits for vision, immune system, and skin health.

  • Pairing carotene-rich foods with a source of fat can aid its absorption because carotene is a fat-soluble compound [8]. By drizzling some olive oil over steamed or roasted vegetables or adding sliced avocado to a carrot-based salad, you can further maximise the absorption of carotene and harness its full nutritional potential.


  1. Maoka T. Carotenoids as natural functional pigments. Journal of natural medicines. 2020 Jan;74(1):1-6.

  2. Caballero B. Encyclopedia of human nutrition. Elsevier; 2005 Jul 20.

  3. Galanakis CM, editor. Nutraceutical and functional food components: Effects of innovative processing techniques. Academic Press; 2021 Oct 24.

  4. Dey S, Nagababu BH. Applications of food color and bio-preservatives in the food and its effect on the human health. Food Chemistry Advances. 2022 Oct 1;1:100019.

  5. Office of dietary supplements - vitamin A and carotenoids [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; [cited 2023 Sept 27]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/

  6. Kiki MJ. Biopigments of microbial origin and their application in the cosmetic industry. Cosmetics. 2023 Mar 10;10(2):47.

  7. Lee S, Choi Y, Jeong HS, Lee J, Sung J. Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables. Food science and biotechnology. 2018 Apr;27:333-42.

  8. Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, Cooper DA, Eldridge AL, Schwartz SJ, White WS. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2004 Aug 1;80(2):396-403.


We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources.  There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with  claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.