Effect of natural b-carotene supplementation in children exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident
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Attempts were made to evaluate 709 children (324 boys and 385 girls) who had been exposed long-term to different doses of radiation during and after the Chernobyl accident and had moved to Israel between 1990 and 1994. Upon arrival, all of them underwent a check-up for most common clinical disorders and were then divided into three groups according to their residences (distance from the reactor) and the level of irradiation exposure: no radiation, <5 Ci/m2, and >5 Ci/m2, respectively. Blood serum analyses for total carotenoids, retinol, α-tocopherol and oxidized conjugated dienes in 262 of the children showed increased HPLC levels of conjugated dienes, indicating increased levels of oxidation of in vivo blood lipids in children from the contaminated areas. The levels were higher in girls than in boys. Some 57 boys and 42 girls were given a basal diet with a diurnal supplementation of 40 mg natural 9-cis and all-trans equal isomer mixture β-carotene in a capsulated powder form of the alga Dunaliella bardawil, for a period of 3 months. Blood serum analyses were regularly conducted before supplementation to determine the baseline effect of radiation exposure to the children, after 1 and 3 months of natural β-carotene supplementation. After supplementation, the levels of the oxidized conjugated dienes decreased in the children's sera without any significant changes in the level of total carotenoids, retinol or α-tocopherol. Other common blood biochemicals were within the normal range for all tests and no statistical differences before or after supplementation of β-carotene were noted. High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses for carotenoids in the blood detected mainly oxycarotenoids, and to a lesser extent, all-trans β-carotene, α-carotene, but not 9-cis β-carotene. The results suggest that irradiation increases the susceptibility of lipids to oxidation in the Chernobyl children and that natural β-carotene may act as an in vivo lipophilic antioxidant or radioprotector.
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