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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Oct;66(4):917-24.

Short- and long-term beta-carotene supplementation do not influence T cell-mediated immunity in healthy elderly persons.

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  • 1Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Supplementation of healthy elderly persons with beta-carotene has been considered a way to enhance immune responses. In study 1 the short-term effect of beta-carotene (90 mg/d for 3 wk) on immunity was assessed in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled longitudinal comparison of healthy elderly women. In study 2 the long-term effect of beta-carotene (50 mg every other day for 10-12 y) on immunity was assessed in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled longitudinal comparison of men enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study. Subjects from both studies taking active supplements had significantly greater plasma beta-carotene concentrations than did subjects taking placebo. The pre- to postintervention change in delayed-type hypersensitivity skin test responses between beta-carotene and placebo groups in the short-term study was not significantly different, nor was the response between treatment groups in the long-term study. There were no significant effects due to beta-carotene supplementation on in vitro lymphocyte proliferation, production of interleukin 2, or production of prostaglandin E2 as a result of short- or long-term beta-carotene supplementation. In addition, there were no differences in the profiles of lymphocyte subsets [total T cells (CD3+), T helper cells (CD4+), T cytotoxic-suppressor cells (CD8+), and B cells (CD19+)] due to short- or long-term beta-carotene supplementation, nor were there differences in percentages of CD16+ natural killer cells or activated lymphocytes (cells expressing interleukin 2 transferrin receptor) due to long-term beta-carotene supplementation. Consistent results from these two trials show that beta-carotene supplementation did not have an enhancing or suppressive effect on T cell-mediated immunity of healthy elderly.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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