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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Circulating Carotenoid Concentrations, Disease Risk, and Genetics

By Michael McBurney

Scientific interest in antioxidants seems to be waning – for no apparent reason. If anything, limited consumption of vegetables (and fruit) should be driving consumer and researcher interest. Why? Because previous studies have found  maintaining high concentrations of serum carotenoids may protect against heart attacks, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease mortality.

Using a genome wide association study (GWAS) from 441 Old Order Amish adults, D’Adamo and colleagues find genetics may determine serum carotenoid concentrations, in this case lycopene concentrations. The study benefitted from a controlled diet over a 6 day period in a population which was homogeneous in terms of genetics, environmental exposures, and lifestyle habits. The mean serum lycopene concentration was 39.2 µg/dL, ranging from 19.3 to 59.1 (0.75; 0.37-1.14 µmol/L). These serum lycopene concentrations are consistent with nationally representative data for  the US population over 6 years of age (39.4 µg/dL, 0.76 µmol/L).

Low serum carotenoid concentrations predict mortality in US adults. Tomato products, usually catsup, are the primary source of lycopene in the US diet. Karppi and colleagues measured differences in acute myocardial infarction in men with serum lyocopene concentrations of 0.11 vs 0.16 µmol/L (5.2 vs 8.3 µg/dL).

It appears from this GWES findings that genetic differences in absorption and metabolism may explain non-linear, sometimes statistically insignificant relationships between carotenoid status, eg. lycopene, and outcome as much as dietary intake.

These studies provide further evidence of the importance of having objective measures of nutrient status.

Main Citation

D’Adamo CR, D’Urso A, Ryan KA, Yerges-Armstrong LM, Semba RD, Steinle NI, Mitchell BD, Shuldiner AR, McArdle PF. A common variant in the SETD7 gene predicts serum lycopene concentrations. 2016 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu8020082

Other Citations

Guenther PM, Dodd KW, Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Most Americans eat much less than recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. 2006 JADA doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2006.06.002

Karppi J, Laukkanen JA, Makikallio TH, Kurl S. Low serum lycopene and β-carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in men. 2011 EUPHA doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckr174

Karppi J, Laukkanen JA, Sivenius J, Ronkainen K, Kurl S. Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men. 2012 Neurology doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b01e31826e26a6

Min J, Min K. Serum lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease mortality in older adults. 2014 Dementia Geriatr Cogn Disord doi: 10.1159/000356486

Shardell MD, Alley DE, Hicks GE, El-Kamary SS, Miller RR, Semba RD, Ferrucci L. Low-serum carotenoid concentrations and carotenoid interactions predict mortality in US adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 2011 Nutr Res doi: 10.1016/J.nutres.2011.03.003

Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds, Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, vitamin E, Selenium and Carotenoids. National Academies Press. 2000 Table 8.1, Concentrations of Selected Carotenoids in Human Serum and Tissues