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Keywords:

  • atherosclerosis;
  • carotenoids;
  • elderly men;
  • intima–media thickness

Abstract.  Karppi J, Kurl S, Laukkanen JA, Rissanen TH, Kauhanen J (Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio; Lapland Central Hospital, Rovaniemi; Finland). Plasma carotenoids are related to intima – media thickness of the carotid artery wall in men from eastern Finland. J Intern Med 2011; 270: 478–485.

Background.  Several previous epidemiological studies have suggested that high plasma concentrations of carotenoids may slow the development of early atherosclerosis, but results have been inconclusive.

Methods.  We examined the effect of carotenoids on early atherosclerosis in a population-based study. The association between plasma carotenoid concentrations and intima–media thickness of the common carotid artery (CCA-IMT) was investigated in 1212 elderly men (aged 61–80 years) in Eastern Finland. They were examined by B-mode ultrasound to detect early signs of carotid atherosclerosis, and plasma concentrations of carotenoids were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography.

Results.  Men in the lowest quartile of CCA-IMT had significantly higher concentrations of plasma β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and α-carotene than men in the highest quartile (P for the differences: 0.043, 0.045 and 0.046, respectively), after adjustment for age, examination year, body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, years of education, symptomatic coronary heart disease (CHD) or CHD history, diabetes, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, medications and season. The concentrations of plasma β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and α-carotene decreased linearly with increasing CCA-IMT.

Conclusions.  The results of this study suggest that high plasma concentrations of β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and α-carotene may be associated with decreased carotid atherosclerosis in elderly men from eastern Finland.