Lack of reliable dietary data has hampered the ability to effectively distinguish between effects of smoking and diet on plasma antioxidant status. As confirmed by analyses of comprehensive food-frequency questionnaires, the total dietary intakes of fruit and vegetables and of dietary antioxidants were not significantly different between the study groups in the present study, thereby enabling isolation of the effect of smoking.
Our objective was to investigate the effect of smoking on plasma antioxidant status by measuring ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, beta-carotene, and lycopene, and subsequently, to test the effect of a 3-mo dietary supplementation with a moderate-dose vitamin cocktail.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, the effect of a vitamin cocktail containing 272 mg vitamin C, 31 mg all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, and 400 microg folic acid on plasma antioxidants was determined in a population of smokers (n = 37) and nonsmokers (n = 38). The population was selected for a low intake of fruit and vegetables and recruited from the San Francisco Bay area.
Only ascorbic acid was significantly depleted by smoking per se (P < 0.01). After the 3-mo supplementation period, ascorbic acid was efficiently repleted in smokers (P < 0.001). Plasma alpha-tocopherol and the ratio of alpha- to gamma-tocopherol increased significantly in both supplemented groups (P < 0.05).
Our data suggest that previous reports of lower concentrations of plasma vitamin E and carotenoids in smokers than in nonsmokers may primarily have been caused by differences in dietary habits between study groups. Plasma ascorbic acid was depleted by smoking and repleted by moderate supplementation.