Beta-carotene is the molecule that gives carrots their orange colour.
It is part of a family of chemicals called the carotenoids, which are found
in many fruit and vegetables, as well as some animal products such as egg
yolks. Carotenoids were first isolated in the early 19th century, and
have been synthesised for use as food colourings since the 1950s.
Biologically, beta-carotene is most important as the precursor of vitamin
A. It also has anti-oxidant properties and may help in preventing cancer
and other diseases.
For more information about beta-carotene, click on one of the links below.
Structure - 2D and 3D pictures of beta-carotene
History - from its discovery to the present day
Synthesis - the two main ways that beta-carotene is made industrially
Colourings - why beta-carotene is coloured, where it is found and what
it is used for
Vitamin A - how beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A, and why it
References - useful links and literature references
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