1. Smoking exerts an inflammatory stimulus on lung macrophages, and smokers generally have low intakes of antioxidant micronutrients. This study was performed to investigate the relationship between whole-blood tumour necrosis factor production, plasma interleukin-6 and acute-phase protein concentration and antioxidant vitamins in smokers and non-smokers.

2. Measurement of tumour necrosis factor was conducted in whole blood stimulated with endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide), and interleukin-6 concentrations were measured in the plasma of smokers and non-smokers. Enzyme and dietary antioxidant concentrations and acute-phase proteins were determined in the two groups.

3. Tumour necrosis factor production and plasma interleukin-6 concentrations were 38% (P = 0.01) and 16% (P = 0.07) greater, respectively, in smokers than in non-smokers. Plasma vitamin A and E concentrations were unaffected by smoking; however, a 21% lower plasma vitamin C (P = 0.04) concentration was observed in smokers, than in non-smokers despite a similar intake of this vitamin by the two groups.

4. Concentrations of the acute-phase proteins α1-acid glycoprotein, caeruloplasmin and α2-macroglobulin were increased in the plasma of smokers compared with non-smokers by 39%, 28% and 12% respectively (P < 0.01). Our studies indicate that smokers have a compromised antioxidant status and elevated concentrations of tumour necrosis factor and interleukin-6 as a consequence of smoking.

5. These observations may provide some insight into the biological mechanisms underlying the pathology associated with smoking.

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