Serum beta-carotene in anorexia nervosa patients: A case-control study




To study the prevalence of hypercarotenemia in a large cohort of patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), to compare serum beta-carotene (βC) values among restricting and purging AN subjects, and to investigate whether hypercarotenemia is related to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.


Retrospective case-control study including 101 female patients and 95 age-matched normal controls in whom fasting serum βC and lipid profiles were determined.


The prevalence of hypercarotenemia (>200 μg/dl) in the AN population was 62%. Mean serum βC level was significantly higher in AN patients than in controls (237 ± 103 vs. 160 ± 45 μg/dl, p < .0001). Among AN patients, the level was higher in restricters than in purgers (271 ± 110 vs. 186 ± 78 μg/dl, p < .005). Fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol levels were also significantly higher in patients with AN than in controls, but no correlation was found between serum βC and LDL cholesterol values.


Hypercarotenemia is a common finding in AN patients, especially in the restricter subgroup. The high prevalence of elevated serum βC in AN patients supports its diagnostic value in atypical forms of eating disorders. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 299–305, 2001.