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Annales de Biologie Clinique

Carotenoids : 2. Diseases and supplementations studies Volume 57, numéro 3, Mai - Juin 1999

Inverse correlations have been found in most studies on the relationship between dietary intake and plasma concentrations of carotenoids on one side and degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases on the other side. Protective effects of carotenoids have been found for pathologies of the retina and the skin. Concentrations of these molecules in blood are lower in digestive pathologies and HIV. Short- and long-term toxicity of carotenoids was found to be low. In combination with the beneficial effects found for diets rich in carotenoids, this has initiated trials with relatively high doses of carotenoid supplements. In the study in Linxian (China) in a rural population with poor nutritional status, supplementation with beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and vitamin E lowered total mortality and mortality from stomach cancer. Other studies (ATBC, Caret…) on well-fed subjects did not show beneficial effects on mortality from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. On the contrary, higher mortality and lung cancer incidence was found in supplemented subjects that were also exposed to asbestos and cigarette smoke. In these studies, doses of supplemental beta-carotene were high and varied from 20 to 50 mg/day. One still ongoing study, called Suvimax, doses subjects for eight years with a cocktail of vitamins and minerals including 6 mg per day of beta-carotene. This supplementation with physiologically seen more “normal” doses might give clarity on the question if beta-carotene is the protective factor in fruits and vegetables.

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