Effects of 4 y of oral supplementation with beta-carotene on serum concentrations of retinol, tocopherol, and five carotenoids

Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Aug;66(2):315-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/66.2.315.


beta-Carotene has been studied widely as a potential cancer-preventing agent. Recent studies found that subjects who took beta-carotene supplements orally had increases in their serum concentrations of alpha-carotene and lycopene that were large (> 150% increase) and significantly greater than such increases in subjects who received placebo and that similar supplementation was associated with a decrease of approximately 37% in plasma lutein concentrations. A biologic interaction between beta-carotene and other carotenoids was suggested. We measured concentrations of retinol, alpha-tocopherol, and five carotenoids in serum specimens from a random sample of subjects enrolled in a clinical trial of the use of antioxidant vitamins in preventing colonic adenomas. We used serum specimens obtained at enrollment and after the subjects took placebo (n = 54) or 25 mg beta-carotene/d (n = 54) orally for 4 y. In a multivariate analysis, baseline serum concentrations of the analytes, sex, body mass index, diet, smoking status, and age were associated with variable changes in some analytes over the 4-y period but supplementation with beta-carotene was related only to a mean increase in serum beta-carotene itself of 151%. We excluded with 95% confidence an increase in lycopene > 4.9%, an increase in alpha-carotene > 17.6%, and a decrease in lutein > 14.7% in subjects given beta-carotene. These results confirm previous findings that supplementation with beta-carotene given orally does not alter serum concentrations of retinol or alpha-tocopherol. The findings also indicate that beta-carotene supplementation, which results in a moderate increase in serum beta-carotene concentration, does not significantly change serum concentrations of other carotenoids.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Vitamin A / blood*
  • Vitamin E / blood*
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage*


  • Placebos
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids