Low-dose supplementation with lycopene or beta-carotene does not enhance cell-mediated immunity in healthy free-living elderly humans

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Aug;55(8):627-35. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601187.


Objective: To assess the effects of supplementation with the carotenoids, beta-carotene or lycopene, at levels achievable within a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, on immune function in a group of free-living healthy elderly.

Design: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. T cell subsets and the expression of functionally associated cell surface molecules, quantified by flow cytometry, and lectin-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation, were compared before and following the treatment period.

Subjects: Fifty-eight subjects aged over 65 y were recruited; 52 were included in the final analysis.

Interventions: Participants received one placebo, one lycopene (13.3 mg) or one beta-carotene (8.2 mg) capsule daily for 12 weeks.

Results: No significant differences were observed in any of the parameters examined following either lycopene or beta-carotene supplementation.

Conclusions: In well-nourished, free-living, healthy elderly individuals, supplementation with relatively low levels of beta-carotene or lycopene is not associated with either a beneficial or detrimental effects on several aspects of cell-mediated immunity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Carotenoids / blood
  • Carotenoids / immunology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Lycopene
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • Male
  • Vegetables / chemistry
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage*
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • beta Carotene / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids
  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene