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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Aug;66(2):315-9.

Effects of 4 y of oral supplementation with beta-carotene on serum concentrations of retinol, tocopherol, and five carotenoids.

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Department of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.


beta-Carotene has been studied widely as a potential cancer-preventing agent. Recent studies found that subjects who took beta-carotene supplements orally had increases in their serum concentrations of alpha-carotene and lycopene that were large (> 150% increase) and significantly greater than such increases in subjects who received placebo and that similar supplementation was associated with a decrease of approximately 37% in plasma lutein concentrations. A biologic interaction between beta-carotene and other carotenoids was suggested. We measured concentrations of retinol, alpha-tocopherol, and five carotenoids in serum specimens from a random sample of subjects enrolled in a clinical trial of the use of antioxidant vitamins in preventing colonic adenomas. We used serum specimens obtained at enrollment and after the subjects took placebo (n = 54) or 25 mg beta-carotene/d (n = 54) orally for 4 y. In a multivariate analysis, baseline serum concentrations of the analytes, sex, body mass index, diet, smoking status, and age were associated with variable changes in some analytes over the 4-y period but supplementation with beta-carotene was related only to a mean increase in serum beta-carotene itself of 151%. We excluded with 95% confidence an increase in lycopene > 4.9%, an increase in alpha-carotene > 17.6%, and a decrease in lutein > 14.7% in subjects given beta-carotene. These results confirm previous findings that supplementation with beta-carotene given orally does not alter serum concentrations of retinol or alpha-tocopherol. The findings also indicate that beta-carotene supplementation, which results in a moderate increase in serum beta-carotene concentration, does not significantly change serum concentrations of other carotenoids.

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