Beta-Carotene May Benefit Children with Cystic Fibrosis and Other Lung Disorders

BACKGROUND: Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects fat absorption -- including that of fat-soluble antioxidants - and also impairs lung function. Previous studies have shown that children with cystic fibrosis tend to have low blood levels of fat-soluble antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin E, and high levels of free radicals.

RESEARCH: Researchers measured levels of beta-carotene, vitamin E, free radicals, and inflammation in 18 children with cystic fibrosis, 15 children with bronchiectasis (a chronic dilatation of the bronchi, with a secondary infection), and 15 healthy children. Children with cystic fibrosis and children with bronchiectasis had comparatively low blood levels of vitamin E; beta-carotene levels also were low in children with cystic fibrosis. Fifteen children with cystic fibrosis and 12 children with bronchiectasis received beta-carotene supplements for six months. The dosage was about one-third of a mg per pound of body weight per meal, roughly equivalent to 94 mg daily for someone weighing 100 pounds.

RESULTS: After six months of supplementation, blood levels of beta-carotene and vitamin E increased and levels of free radicals and inflammation products decreased. The increase in vitamin E was attributed to a sparing action by beta-carotene.

IMPLICATIONS: The researchers concluded that children with cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis are more susceptible than healthy children to free radical stresses. "These patients may benefit from beta-carotene supplementation," they wrote. Some of the lung function tests (forced expiratory volume, FEV) also showed significant improvement in the children treated with beta-carotene.

Cobanoglu N, Ozcelik U, Gocmen A, et al., "Antioxidant effect of beta- carotene in cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis: clinical and laboratory parameters of a pilot study," Acta Paediatrica, 2002;91:793-798.

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