Carotenoids may halve metabolic syndrome risk

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Metabolic syndrome, Nutrition, Antioxidant

Increased intakes of antioxidant carotenoids, and particularly lycopene, may reduce the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome by about 50 per cent, says a new study.

Writing in the new issue of the Journal of Nutrition​, Dutch scientists report that middle-aged and elderly men with highest average intake of all carotenoids had a 58 per cent lower incidence of metabolic syndrome, while the highest intake of lycopene was associated with a 45 per cent lower incidence, compared to men with the lowest average intakes.

A potentially protective effect was also observed for beta-carotene intakes, report the researchers, led by Ivonne Sluijs from the University Medical Center Utrecht.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and CVD.

Fifteen per cent of adult Europeans are estimated to be affected by MetS, while the US statistic is estimated to be a whopping 32 per cent. Obesity is established to be the main risk factor for MetS.

“Higher total carotenoid, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene intakes were associated with lower waist circumferences and visceral and subcutaneous fat mass,”​ wrote Sluijs and her co-workers. “Higher lycopene intake was related to lower serum triglyceride concentrations,” ​they added.

The findings were based on data from a population-based, cross-sectional study involving 374 men aged between 40 and 80, 22 per cent of whom had metabolic syndrome. Intakes of the carotenoids, including alpha- and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

Sluijs and her co-workers report that high intakes of all these compounds was associated with lower incidence of the syndrome, and that lycopene and beta-carotene in particular were linked to apparent protective effects.

“In conclusion, higher total carotenoid intakes, mainly those of beta-carotene and lycopene, were associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with lower measures of adiposity and serum triglyceride concentrations in middle-aged and elderly men,”​ wrote the researchers.

Source: Journal of Nutrition​ May 2009, Volume 139, Number 5, Pages 987-992, doi:10.3945/jn.108.101451“Dietary Carotenoid Intake Is Associated with Lower Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in Middle-Aged and Elderly Men”​ Authors: I. Sluijs, J.W.J. Beulens, D.E. Grobbee, Y.T. van der Schouw

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