Plasma carotenoid levels in relation to the Mediterranean diet in Greece.Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2003; 73(3):221-5IJ
In the context of the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), we conducted a cross-sectional study to examine the effects of the intake of plant foods central in the traditional Mediterranean diet on plasma levels of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein-zeaxanthin. Study subjects were a random sample of 45 men and 68 women, aged 30-82 years, from the Greek EPIC cohort of 27,953 volunteers. Linear regression models were fitted, with the carotenoid blood levels as dependent variables. Independent variables were selected food items, as well as body mass index, controlling for energy intake and a set of demographic factors. Body mass index was inversely associated with plasma levels of the studied carotenoids. The association was highly significant for alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, significant for lutein-zeaxanthin, and borderline significant (p approximately 0.07) for lycopene. Tomato intake was significantly positively associated with plasma lycopene, and beta-carotene. Other fruity vegetables and non-fruity vegetables were significantly positively associated, the former with alpha-carotene and the latter with both alpha- and beta-carotene plasma levels. Fruits showed a highly significant positive association with plasma beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as with beta-carotene. No association was found between the intake of olive oil or other added lipids and plasma carotenoids. We conclude that among the studied components of the Mediterranean diet, fruits and vegetables tend to increase levels of some carotenoids, but olive oil has no apparent effect.