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Definition of «Carotenemia»

Carotenemia: Temporary yellowing of the skin due to excessive beta carotene in the diet. The offending substance, beta carotene, is an antioxidant (a substance that protects cells against oxidation damage) and is converted by the body to vitamin A.

Carotenemia is most commonly seen in infants fed too many mashed carrots, or in adults taking in large quantities of carrots or carrot juice. Other common food sources of beta carotene include vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, and fruit such as cantaloupes and apricots.

These foods are not the sole source of beta carotene. A popular orange drink contains beta carotene as a coloring and vitamin supplement. Too much of this drink is known to turn the skin yellow. Another source of beta carotene is the coloring agent in marigolds, which some U.S. producers feed to chickens to give their meat a yellow color.

Beta carotene is also available in the form of nutritional supplements. These can be taken in excess, leading to carotenemia.

Carotenemia is harmless. Aside from the cosmetic aspect, carotenemia is mainly of medical importance because it can raise the spectre of jaundice, an unrelated and potentially serious clinical sign.

Once the excessive intake of beta carotene is halted, the skin reverts to its normal color within weeks.

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