The aim of this study was to determine whether beta-carotene administration reduces oxidative stress and influences antioxidant, mainly glutathione-related, defense systems in workers chronically exposed to lead. The population consisted of two randomly divided groups of healthy male volunteers exposed to lead. Workers in the first group (reference group) were not administered any antioxidants, while workers in the second group (CAR group) were treated orally with 10mg of beta-carotene once a day for 12weeks. Biochemical analysis included measuring markers of lead-exposure and oxidative stress in addition to the levels and activities of selected antioxidants. After treatment, levels of malondialdehyde, lipid hydroperoxides and lipofuscin significantly decreased compared with the reference group. However, the level of glutathione significantly increased compared with the baseline. Treatment with beta-carotene also resulted in significantly decreased glutathione peroxidase activity compared with the reference group, while the activities of other glutathione-related enzymes and of superoxide dismutase were not significantly changed. However, the activities of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and catalase, as well as the level of alpha-tocopherol, were significantly higher after treatment compared with the baseline. Despite controversy over the antioxidant properties of beta-carotene in vivo, our findings showed reduced oxidative stress after beta-carotene supplementation in chronic lead poisoning.
Keywords: Antioxidants; Beta-carotene; Lead poisoning; Lipid peroxidation; Oxidative stress.
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