Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble plant dye, a carotenoid and an antioxidant. There are many carotenes, but beta carotene is the best known. Beta carotene is also called carrot colour. The substance can be found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables but can also be formed from individual fungi and algae or made synthetically.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A (retinol), which in practice means that the body can convert it to vitamin A in the intestinal mucosa as needed. One microgram of retinol is equivalent to 12 micrograms of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is not stored in the body.
Beta-carotene is one of the substances that can be found both as an excipient (dye) with E-number 160a and as an active ingredient. Of course, there is a very big difference in the amount of beta-carotene, depending on whether it acts as an excipient or an active ingredient.
In dietary supplements, beta-carotene is produced by extracting the saltwater alga Dunaliella salina.