The effect of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplementation on COPD symptoms

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Nov;156(5):1447-52. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.156.5.96-11048.


The effects of alpha-tocopherol (50 mg/d) and beta-carotene (20 mg/d) supplementation on symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were studied among the 29,133 participants of the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study undertaken to investigate the effects of these two substances in the prevention of lung and other cancers. During the follow-up the supplementations did not affect the recurrence or incidence of chronic cough, phlegm, or dyspnea. The prevalence of chronic bronchitis and dyspnea at baseline was lower among those with high dietary intake of beta-carotene (OR = 0.78 and 0.67, respectively) or vitamin E (OR = 0.87 and 0.77) and high serum beta-carotene (OR = 0.59 and 0.62) and alpha-tocopherol (OR = 0.76 and 0.82). High intake and serum levels of retinol were associated with low prevalence of dyspnea (OR = 0.84 and 0.80, respectively) but not with chronic bronchitis. The results indicate no benefit from supplementation with alpha-tocopherol or beta-carotene on the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders but support the beneficial effect of dietary intake of fruits and vegetables rich in these compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchitis / complications
  • Cough / complications
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Dyspnea / complications
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / blood
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin E / blood
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage*
  • beta Carotene / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E