This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Colorize Your Plate with Carotenoids!

By Michael McBurney

For decades, a cluster of outcomes – hypertension, hyperglycemia, hypertriglyceridemia and gout – have been associated with being overweight/obese and risk on non-communicable diseases. Over time, the term metabolic syndrome has been used to describe this constellation of risk factors.

Liu and colleagues report serum carotenoid concentrations and metabolic syndrome prevalence from a cross-sectional study of 2,148 adults (50-75y) living in urban Guangzhou, China. They report a dose-response inverse relationship between individual serum concentrations and prevalence of metabolic syndrome. As expected, the most prevalent serum carotenoids are β-carotene (~40-45% of total) and lutein and zeaxanthin (~35-39% of total).  11.4% of the population had metabolic syndrome with elevated BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose, and lower HDL-C concentrations (p < 0.001 vs those without metabolic syndrome).  Similar associations were been observed in 1988-1994 and 2001-2006 population surveys of American adults where serum β-carotene concentrations ranged from 0.3-0.48 µmol/L.

The statistically significant associations of antioxidant serum carotenoids with metabolic syndrome isn’t necessarily causal. Carotenoids are most commonly ingested from plant sources. The association may reflect an unhealthy diet because few adults consume the recommended number of fruit and vegetable surveys. It is possible that suboptimal intakes of antioxidant vitamins may exacerbate the harmful effect of excess calories.

Make a pledge. Commit yourself to consuming more plant-based carotenoids. Add some color to your plate!

Main Citation

Liu J, Shi W, Cao Y, He L, Guan K, Ling W, Chen Y. Higher serum carotenoid concentrations associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/2000711451400316X

Other Citations

Kaur S. Biochemistry of Atherosclerosis. Advances in Biochemistry in Health and Disease: Volume I. Springer Science & Business Media. 2006. ISBN-10:0-387-31252-8

Ford ES, Mokdad AH, Giles WH, Brown DW. The metabolic syndrome and antioxidant concentrations: Findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 2003 Diabetes doi: 10.2337/diabetes.52.9.2346

Beydoun MA, Shroff MR, Chen X, Beydoun HA, Wang Y, Zonderman AB. Serum antioxidant status is associated with metabolic syndrome among US adults in recent national surveys. 2011 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.110.136580