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Carotenes linked to lower heart disease deaths

By Stephen Daniells , 28-Jan-2008

An increased consumption of alpha- and beta-carotene in the diet may reduce the risks of heart disease deaths by about 20 per cent, suggests a new study.

In a study of 559 men, dietary intakes of other other carotenoids, tocopherols, or vitamin C were not linked to heart disease mortality rates, however, reports the study in the February issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year. Researchers from Wageningen University, the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the German Institute for Human Nutrition (DIfE), and University of Minnesota, assessed the potential benefits of various antioxidant nutrients for CVD mortality in elderly men (average age 72) participating in the Zutphen Elderly Study. Over 15 years of follow-up, lead author Brian Buijsse reports that 197 men had died from CVD. The men were free of chronic diseases at the start of the study. Buijsse and co-workers report that an increased intake of alpha-carotene was associated with a 19 per cent reduction in the risk of CVD mortality, while beta-carotene was linked to a 20 per cent reduction, after adjusting the results for potential confounding factors, such as age and smoking The researchers identified carrots as the primary dietary source of the carotenoids, and an increased intake of this vegetable was linked to a 17 per cent reduction in the risk of CVD death, they said. On the other hand, increased intakes of other carotenoids, vitamin C or alpha- and gamma-tocopherol (the two most common types of vitamin E in the diet), had no influence on the risk of CVD mortality. "In conclusion, dietary intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are inversely associated with CVD mortality in elderly men," wrote the authors. "This study does not indicate an important role for other carotenoids, tocopherols, or vitamin C in lowering the risk of CVD death" The study has several limitations, most notably the use of food frequency questionnaires to assess dietary intakes, which may be susceptible to recall errors from the participants. Significant further study is needed to further explore the potential benefits of increased alpha- and beta-carotene intakes and heart health, with mechanistic studies necessary to explain the underlying processes. Late in 2007, researchers from Harvard reports that long-term beta-carotene supplementation may slow the rate of age-related cognitive decline. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Vol. 167, pp. 2184-2190), was the first to look at long-term antioxidant supplementation in relation to a decline in cognitive function that occurs with naturally with age, and that precedes diseases such as Alzheimer's. Previously, studies have suggested that beta-carotene supplementation is not without its risks, with data indicating an increase in lung cancer risk among smokers. Source: Journal of Nutrition February 2008, Volume 138, Pages 344-350 "Both alpha- and beta-Carotene, but Not Tocopherols and Vitamin C, Are Inversely Related to 15-Year Cardiovascular Mortality in Dutch Elderly Men" Authors: B. Buijsse, E.J.M. Feskens, L. Kwape, F.J. Kok, D. Kromhout

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