Carotenoids and the Immune Response

Carotenoids and the Immune Response

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   J Nutr 1989 (Jan);   119 (1):   112115

Bendich A

Clinical Nutrition,
Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc.,
Nutley, NJ 07110

There is growing evidence from in vitro and in vivo laboratory animal studies that beta-carotene can protect phagocytic cells from autooxidative damage, enhance T and B lymphocyte proliferative responses, stimulate effector T cell functions, and enhance macrophage, cytotoxic T cell and natural killer cell tumoricidal capacities, as well as increase the production of certain interleukins. Many of these effects have also been seen with carotenoids lacking provitamin A activity but having the antioxidant and singlet oxygen quenching capacities of beta-carotene. The association of immunoenhancement with decreased tumor burden in animals given carotenoids suggests a potential explanation for the epidemiological data linking lower carotenoid status with higher incidences of certain cancers. Since vitamin A is a relatively poor antioxidant and cannot quench singlet oxygen, beta-carotene may have more importance as a nutrient than simply serving as a precursor of vitamin A.

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