β-Carotene, the most abundant provitamin A carotenoid in the diet, is converted to retinal by β-carotene 15,15'-monoxygenase (BCMO1). However, β-carotene absorption and conversion into retinal is extremely variable among individuals, with proportions of low responders to dietary β-carotene as high as 45%. Recently, 2 common nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the BCMO1 coding region (R267S; rs12934922 and A379V; rs7501331) revealed reduced catalytic activity, confirming that genetic variations contribute to the low responder phenotype. Because 4 SNPs 5' upstream from the BCMO1 gene were recently shown to affect circulating carotenoid concentrations, the current study aimed to investigate the effects of these SNPs on β-carotene conversion efficiency. Three of the 4 polymorphisms (rs6420424, rs11645428, and rs6564851) reduced the catalytic activity of BCMO1 in female volunteers by 59, 51, and 48%, respectively. The TG-rich lipoprotein fraction retinyl palmitate:β-carotene ratio was negatively correlated with the G allele of rs11645428 (r = -0.44; P = 0.018), whereas it was positively correlated with the G allele of rs6420424 (r = 0.53; P = 0.004) and the T allele of rs6564851 (r = 0.41; P = 0.028). Furthermore, large inter-ethnic variations in frequency of affected alleles were detected, with frequencies varying from 43 to 84% (rs6420424), 52 to 100% (rs11645428), and 19 to 67% (rs6564851). In summary, a range of SNPs can influence the effectiveness of using plant-based provitamin A carotenoids to increase vitamin A status in at-risk population groups and this effect may vary depending on ethnic origin.