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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Apr;71(4):950-5.

Effect of beta-carotene supplementation and lactation on carotenoid metabolism and mitogenic T lymphocyte proliferation.

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Department of Nutrition and Food Science and the Biometrics Program, the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park 20742, USA.



Information is lacking regarding the effects of beta-carotene supplementation, early lactation, or both on circulating carotenoid concentrations and T lymphocyte proliferation.


This study investigated the effects of short-term beta-carotene supplementation (30 mg/d for 28 d) during early lactation (days 4-32 postpartum) on circulating carotenoid concentrations and on the T lymphocyte proliferative response to phytohemagglutinin.


Subjects aged 19-39 y were paired [lactating (4 d postpartum) and nonlactating (never pregnant, healthy women)] and randomly assigned to receive either beta-carotene or a placebo. During the study, subjects provided eight 24-h food records for analysis with the NUTRITIONIST IV and US Department of Agriculture carotenoid databases. Nonfasting blood samples were collected at baseline and at 28 d. Plasma analysis included quantification of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, retinol, and alpha-tocopherol, complete differential blood cell counts, and lymphocyte proliferative activity.


beta-Carotene supplementation increased beta-carotene (P < 0.001) and alpha-carotene (P < 0.05) concentrations but did not affect lycopene concentrations significantly. Supplemented women showed significant decreases in plasma lutein (P < 0.03), as did lactating subjects (P < 0.02). Neither lactation nor beta-carotene supplementation affected the T lymphocyte proliferative response to phytohemagglutinin.


Our results suggest that beta-carotene supplementation as well as some events related to parturition, initiation of lactation, or both alter circulating concentrations of lutein. beta-Carotene supplementation does not enhance T lymphocyte immune competence in healthy women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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