Dietary carotenoids and risk of coronary artery disease in women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun;77(6):1390-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/77.6.1390.


Background: Numerous studies have shown that higher intakes or higher blood concentrations of carotenes are associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). Given the null results in trials of beta-carotene supplementation, considerable attention has focused on the potential role of other dietary carotenoids in the prevention of CAD.

Objective: Our objective was to prospectively examine the relation between dietary intakes of specific carotenoids and risk of CAD in women.

Design: In 1984, 73 286 female nurses completed a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire that assessed their consumption of carotenoids and various other nutrients. The women were followed for 12 y for the development of incident CAD (nonfatal myocardial infarction and fatal CAD), and dietary information was updated in 1986, 1990, and 1994.

Results: During 12 y of follow-up (803 590 person-years), we identified 998 incident cases of CAD. After adjustment for age, smoking, and other CAD risk factors, we observed modest but significant inverse associations between the highest quintiles of intake of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene and risk of CAD but no significant relation with intakes of lutein/zeaxanthin, lycopene, or beta-cryptoxanthin. For women in the highest compared with the respective lowest quintile of intake, the relative risks for beta-carotene and alpha-carotene were 0.74 (95% CI: 0.59, 0.93) and 0.80 (95% CI: 0.65, 0.99), respectively. The association between the specific carotenoids and CAD risk did not vary significantly by current smoking status.

Conclusion: Higher intakes of foods rich in alpha-carotene or beta-carotene are associated with a reduction in risk of CAD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene