High blood levels of the antioxidant alpha-carotene, found in yellow and green vegetables, appear to reduce the risk of dying over a 14-year period, according to a new study.
Oxygen-related damage to DNA, proteins and fats may play a role in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer, reveals the study.
Carotenoids—including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene—are produced by plants and microorganisms and act as antioxidants, counteracting this damage.
Chaoyang Li of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues assessed the relationship between alpha-carotene and the risk of death among 15,318 adults age 20 and older who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study.
Participants underwent a medical examination and provided blood samples between 1988 and 1994, and were followed through 2006 to determine whether and how they died.
Over the course of the study, 3,810 participants died; the risk for dying was lower with higher levels of alpha-carotene in the blood.
Higher alpha-carotene concentration also appeared to be associated with lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer individually, and of all other causes.
The results support increasing fruit and vegetable consumption as a way of preventing premature death, the researchers conclude.
Yellow-orange (carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkin and winter squash) and dark-green (broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnips greens, collards and leaf lettuce) vegetables have high alpha-carotene content.
The finding was posted online today and will be published in the March 28 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine .