People who consume a diet high in antioxidant-rich carotenoids have a lower occurrence of diabetes, according to a new study. The researchers linked higher intakes of beta and alpha carotene with lower risks of type 2 diabetes.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. They analyzed data from validated food frequency questionnaires from 37,846 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which followed subjects for a mean of 10 years. They focused on dietary carotenoid intake levels consisting of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and the total of these six carotenoids. The study also examined how smoking (tobacco, not carotenoids) played into the subjects’ risk of developing diabetes. Thirty-one percent of the subjects smoked.
“This study shows that diets high in beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are associated with reduced type 2 diabetes in generally healthy men and women,” concluded the authors of the study, which appeared in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. Smoking, according the researchers’ analysis, made no difference in the risk of diabetes.
An earlier study linked low carotenoids with increased risk of colon cancer. Animal and human studies have found that beta-carotene can enhance many aspects of immunity. Some of this research has shown that beta-carotene boosts the activity of "natural-killer" cells, a type of immune cell that fights cancer.