WASHINGTON, U.S.- New findings of a study suggested that people need an active enzyme to release the full health benefits of vitamin A.

You are probably aware that beta-carotene is responsible for the orange colour of carrots. Different studies showed that the conversion of this bioactive compound to vitamin A could decrease the bad cholesterol. For this reason, beta-carotene is claimed to help fight against atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is the condition that is known to cause fat and cholesterol accumulation in the arteries. This kind of disease is the primary cause of mortality all over the world, according to Jaume Amengual of the University of Illinois.

Amengual, together with his colleagues, did two studies that aimed to understand how beta-carotene can affect cardiovascular health. They verified that it is necessary but discovered a crucial step in the process.

It is found out that beta-carotene oxygenase 1 (BCO1) helps convert beta-carotene to the eye health booster vitamin. Genetic variation defines how active is the BCO1 version you have. According to Amengual, those with a less active enzyme would have to look for other vitamin sources in their diet.

Active Enzyme Needed to Produce More Vitamin A

The first study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. It analysed DNA and blood samples coming from young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. From this, the researchers discovered a connection between bad cholesterol level and BCO1 activity.

Amengual noted that they have observed that those people with a genetic variant linked to more active BCO1 had a lower cholesterol level in the blood. To confirm the result, he and his team conducted a second study involving mice. It was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Furthermore, Amengual added that in the human study, they found that the cholesterol level was higher in the participants who cannot produce enough vitamin A. To know the observation’s effect, he explained that they would have to wait for 70 years. Since it is not doable, their team decided to use animals for the studies for a faster result.

The result of the studies showed that the mice which were given beta-carotene had lower cholesterol levels. Those mice were found to have smaller atherosclerosis plaques or lesions in the arteries. It means that the beta-carotene fed mice were more protected from atherosclerosis than those feeding on a diet with the bioactive compound.

The typical assumption is that high beta-carotene levels are linked to health benefits. However, it could also mean having a less active BCO1, which does not convert beta carotene to its corresponding vitamin.

Amengual explained that around 50% of the population have the less active enzyme variant. To help their body release more vitamin A, they should supplement with animal sources, like dairy products.