Carotenoids and cardiovascular health.Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 83(6):1265-71AJ
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death in Western countries. Nutrition has a significant role in the prevention of many chronic diseases such as CVD, cancers, and degenerative brain diseases. The major risk and protective factors in the diet are well recognized, but interesting new candidates continue to appear. It is well known that a greater intake of fruit and vegetables can help prevent heart diseases and mortality. Because fruit, berries, and vegetables are chemically complex foods, it is difficult to pinpoint any single nutrient that contributes the most to the cardioprotective effects. Several potential components that are found in fruit, berries, and vegetables are probably involved in the protective effects against CVD. Potential beneficial substances include antioxidant vitamins, folate, fiber, and potassium. Antioxidant compounds found in fruit and vegetables, such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoids, may influence the risk of CVD by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol in arteries. In this review, the role of main dietary carotenoids, ie, lycopene, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin, in the prevention of heart diseases is discussed. Although it is clear that a higher intake of fruit and vegetables can help prevent the morbidity and mortality associated with heart diseases, more information is needed to ascertain the association between the intake of single nutrients, such as carotenoids, and the risk of CVD. Currently, the consumption of carotenoids in pharmaceutical forms for the treatment or prevention of heart diseases cannot be recommended.