Twenty-five children with chronic constipation underwent serial monitoring of serum beta-carotene, retinol (vitamin A1), and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) levels during mineral oil therapy. Mineral oil was administered between meals. Patients were monitored for up to four months of therapy. Mean serum beta-carotene levels fell from 1.0 +/- 0.5 mumol/L (55.7 +/- 26.0 micrograms/dL) to 0.7 +/- 0.4 mumol/L (35.9 +/- 22.1 micrograms/dL) after the first month of mineral oil therapy and remained depressed throughout the remainder of the study. Serum alpha-tocopherol levels remained unchanged throughout the observation period. There was a modest increase in serum retinol levels during the study, especially after three months (from 1.48 +/- 0.84 mumol/L [42.3 +/- 24.1 micrograms/dL] to 2.22 +/- 0.77 mumol/L [63.5 +/- 22.1 micrograms/dL]). We conclude that while a short course of mineral oil can induce a reduction in the serum level of beta-carotene, the treatment has no adverse effect on serum levels of retinol and alpha-tocopherol.