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J Lipid Res. 1998 Nov;39(11):2250-60.

Low and high responders to pharmacological doses of beta-carotene: proportion in the population, mechanisms involved and consequences on beta-carotene metabolism.

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Unité des Maladies Métaboliques et des Micronutriments, INRA Clermont-Ferrand 63000, France.


The aim of this study was to assess the interindividual variability of chylomicron beta-carotene response to a pharmacological load of beta-carotene in the population, to identify the mechanisms responsible for this variability, and to evaluate its consequences on beta-carotene status and metabolism. The variability, as estimated by the 3-h chylomicron beta-carotene response to 120 mg beta-carotene in 79 healthy male volunteers, was high (CV = 61%), but it was unimodal and all the subjects had detectable chylomicron beta-carotene. In 16 subjects randomly selected among the 79, the interindividual variability of the triglyceride-adjusted chylomicron (beta-carotene + retinyl palmitate) response (0-12.5 h area under the curve) was high (CV = 54%), suggesting that there is a high interindividual variability in the efficiency of intestinal absorption of beta-carotene. The chylomicron beta-carotene response was correlated (r = 0.50, P < 0.05) with the chylomicron triglyceride response. The beta-carotene status, as assessed by beta-carotene concentration in buccal mucosal cells, was correlated (r = 0.73, P < 0.05) with the triglyceride-adjusted chylomicron beta-carotene response, i.e., with the ability to respond to beta-carotene. The triglyceride-adjusted chylomicron retinyl-palmitate response was correlated (r = 0.55, P < 0.05) with the triglyceride-adjusted chylomicron beta-carotene response. Plasma all-trans retinoic acid slightly, but significantly, increased (+40%) 3 h after the beta-carotene load, but this increase was not related to the triglyceride-adjusted beta-carotene response. In conclusion, the ability to respond to beta-carotene is highly variable, but there is probably a very small proportion of true non-responders to pharmacological doses of beta-carotene in the healthy population. This variability is apparently mainly due to interindividual differences in the efficiency of intestinal absorption of beta-carotene and in chylomicron metabolism. The ability to respond to beta-carotene can affect the beta-carotene status and the provitamin A activity of beta-carotene, but it has apparently no effect on the amount of retinoic acid appearing in the plasma after the ingestion of a pharmacological dose of beta-carotene.

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