A study, reported in Chest (February 2004), found that vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation have no role in the occurrence of pneumonia in male smokers. On the other hand, however, it appears that vitamin E may help men who begin smoking later in life.
To determine whether vitamin E or beta-carotene supplementation affects the risk of pneumonia, the researchers took data from the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention study. They analyzed the effects of vitamin E and beta-carotene on the rate of lung cancer in 29,133 men who smoked at least 5 cigarettes a day at the beginning of the study. The participants, who ranged between 50 and 69 years of age, were followed for 6 years. They were randomly assigned to receive the supplements or a placebo. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which type of pill was given.
In this study, the main outcome measure was the first occurrence of hospital-related pneumonia. The researchers identified 898 cases in the national hospital discharge register. The results showed that vitamin E supplementation lowered the risk of pneumonia by 35% among participants who began smoking at age 21 and older.Yet, beta-carotene supplementation increased the risk by 58% in this population.