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Carotenoids And Health: The Public Debate

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Ever since a possible association between dietary carotenoids and reduced risk of some cancers and other diseases was first raised, this has become a major are of interest in the carotenoid scientific community and in the media. Articles have been published in the popular press, in editorials and comments in journals and in advertising material, some making extravagant claims about beneficial actions of carotenoids or about possible detrimental effects of carotenoids on human health. Such reports, both positive and negative, have been based on uncritical evaluation of selected evidence or on one statement or side of an argument quoted from a broader, balanced view. Because of the natural public concern over cancer, the well-documented vital role of beta-carotene and related compounds as the main dietary source of vitamin A is often overlooked.

We believe that The International Carotenoid Society has a major responsibility to the general public to ensure that these issues are addressed, the evidence is evaluated critically and a balanced judgement and perspective reached.

Carotenoids are not the universal cure for cancer that some reports have seemed to claim. Nor are they likely to be causative agents for cancer or other disorders, as other recent comments may have suggested. However, if some of the carotenoids that we all ingest as part of our normal diet may have beneficial effects on the health of some people, in addition to their essential provitamin A role, or, conversely, if they could exacerbate health risks in some groups of people it is in everyone's interest to have relevant, reliable information.

A statement of opinion will appear here shortly. The Society encourages public debate on the subject. We will present and comment on press/media reports relevant to carotenoids and will attempt to answer questions from the general public and the media in a fair and unbiased way to the best of our ability, and to seek advice and comment from the most appropriate experts.

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