In a study of 652 non-institutionalised elderly people, the incidence of acute respiratory infections was reduced for those with the highest plasma levels, suggesting that beta-carotene may improve the immune response and result in decreased risk of infectious diseases (van der Horst-Graat et al 2004).
These findings are contrasted by analyses of male smokers who participated in the ATBC study, which found that supplementation with synthetic beta-carotene had no overall effect on the risk of hospital-treated pneumonia or the incidence of the common cold (Hemila et al 2002, 2004), but instead increased the risk of colds in subjects carrying out heavy exercise at leisure but not at work (Hemila et al 2003).
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