Levels of Carotenoids Vary Greatly Among American Children

BACKGROUND: Carotenoids are a family of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Considerable research suggests that carotenoids, as part of these foods, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, various cancers, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Since many of these diseases begin in childhood, an assessment of carotenoid levels in children and adolescents is warranted.

RESEARCH: Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), researchers analyzed blood levels of five principal dietary carotenoids in 4,231 children and adolescents, ages six to 16. The analysis focused primarily on carotenoid concentrations by sex and race.

RESULTS: Overall, carotenoid levels were strongly related to intake of fruits and vegetables, with the exception of lycopene. However, blood levels of carotenoids were not "uniformly distributed" among the children and adolescents. Older and heavier subjects had lower levels of all carotenoids. Males had slightly higher carotenoid levels than did females. African-American subjects had significantly higher levels of beta- cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, and lycopene -- but lower alpha-carotene - levels compared with white subjects. Mexican-American subjects had higher alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein/zeaxanthin -- but lower lycopene -- levels compared with white subjects. In addition, levels of C- reactive protein (a marker of inflammation and risk factor for heart disease) were higher in children and adolescents with low carotenoid levels.

IMPLICATIONS: These data may have value in identifying groups of children who, because of low carotenoids, may be at an increased risk of developing specific degenerative diseases.

Ford ES, Gillespie C, Ballew C, et al., "Serum carotenoid concentrations in US children and adolescents," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, 76:818-827.

For the original abstract, visit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12324296&dopt=Abstract

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