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Fat-soluble vitamin status and metabolism during ageing:
Functional and nutritional consequences
Contract number : QLK1-1999-00830
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 2.205.000
EC contribution : € 1.600.000
Starting date : 1/01/2000
Duration : 42 Months
Scientific Officer : Alkmini Katsada
Project website : not yet available
Dr Edmond Rock
Unité des Maladies Métaboliques et Micronutriments
INRA Theix
63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle
Tel.: +33-4-73 62 47 68
Fax: +33-4-73 62 46 38
E-mail: rock @

Among the nutritional factors contributing to maintain health during ageing, fat-soluble vitamins (FSV) are crucial to protect against free radicals-generated deleterious processes or decrease efficiency of the immune system. However, no sound scientific evidence exists to state about specific dietary needs in FSV for the healthy elderly. This project aims at providing such evidence by undertaking studies on male volunteers distributed between 20 and 75 years of age and coming from 3 European countries. Biomarkers and variables related to status, metabolism and functions will be measured either in steady-provide clear information about the physiological characteristics of vitamin A, vitamin E, and carotenoids. Simultaneously, marketing opportunities for FSV-enriched dietetic foods, specifically designed for the elderly will be determined. The scientific and economic evidences obtained in this project will provide basis to implement EU.


The overall objective of this project is to provide clear and sound scientific evidences about the changes in the status, the metabolism and the functions of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin E , carotenoids), that may occur during non pathological ageing in humans. According to their nature, to their extent, and to their frequency, these age-related changes may or may not result in modifications of the vitamin needs. These vitamins are especially important in the elderly, because of their protective properties: they are needed to maintain an efficient immune status, which is known to fail with ageing. Vitamin E, and probably carotenoids, participate in the oxidant/antioxidant balance and may thus act against free radicals, whose effects are deleterious on many functions affected by ageing.

The knowledge acquired in this project will help to decide whether specific dietary recommendations for these vitamins are required for the healthy elderly. It will also provide a scientific basis for the development of vitamin-enriched dietetic products, specifically designed for this age group.

A secondary scientific objective is to perform geographical comparisons. Three populations, each comprising 100 healthy male volunteers and fulfilling the same inclusion criteria., will be recruited in three European countries, where both the dietary habits and life style are different. Most of the 300 subjects will be assayed for the same analytical or will undergo similar experimental protocols. Although our project is clearly an experimental and not an epidemiological one, it could allow detecting between-country differences in the relationships that we will be seeking to establish between vitamins and ageing.

Beside major scientific objectives, this project has two main technological objectives:

It will provide validation of several methodologies, which have not been used to the same extent so far. This comprises the use of deuterated-labelled vitamins, an approach, which relies on validated techniques, yet has not been used in such a context. This holds also true for the measurements of nuclear receptor in human tissue: these are new attempts to transpose methodologies and techniques developed on animals to human beings.

It will investigate the status, the metabolism and the functions of vitamins in humans, using several biomarkers of exposure and effects, thus providing some basis to validate the less developed biomarkers against the more established ones.

(expected) Results and achievements

The expected achievements are:

  • a reliable scientific information about the age-effects on the status, the metabolism and the functions of FSV, providing the basis of specific dietary recommendation for FSV intake and status of the elderly.
  • a geographical comparison of these effects between three European countries
  • a further step towards several methodological validations
  • sufficient social and economical information to decide about the feasibility of developing specific FSV-enriched dietetic foods for the healthy elderly.

The results generated in this project will provide a sound scientific basis to implement a nutritional policy towards the elderly, and to develop dietetic foods specifically designed to meet the needs of the healthy elderly population. Dietetic foods differ from ordinary food because of their composition or method of manufacture. Research, development and marketing of a new product category generate high costs, which could not be afforded by most of the manufacturers without the assurance of a wide market. Evidence provided by a multi-centre study will be of major interest for the development of a new and specific food range.

Currently, there is no specific European directive on the specific dietary requirements for healthy elderly people. However, it is clear that healthy elderly can be considered as being in a physiological condition that may benefit from some specially formulated products, which would meet their particular nutritional needs. It is therefore very likely that such products may be marketed. Then relevant scientific work would help national authorities and the European Commission to evaluate the acceptance of these products. If considered necessary, legislation could then be envisaged. Reliable data showing specific nutritional requirements and a real consumer interest for this food category will be of the utmost interest in the elaboration of a directive.


Karl-Franzens-University of Graz
Institute of Biochemistry
Schubertstraße 1
8010 Graz
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Facultat de Medicina i Ciencies de la Salut
Unitat de Recerca de Lipids i Arteriosclerosi
Carrer de Sant Llorenc, 21
43201 Reus
Central Science Laboratory
Food Safety and Quality Group
Sand Hutton
YO41 1LZ York
United Kingdom
Université d'Auvergne
Faculté de Pharmacie
Laboratoire de Biochimie, Biologie Moléculaire et Nutrition
28, Place Henri-Durant
PO Box 38
63001 Clermont-Ferrand Cedex 01
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Institute of Experimental Endocrinology
Vlarska 3
83306 Bratislava
Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung
Abteilung Vitamine und Atherosklerose
Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114 - 116
14558 Bergholz-Rehbrücke
Association of The Food Industries for Particular Nutritional Uses of The EU
194, Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris

Fifth Framework Programme

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