Plasma carotenoids and tocopherols and risk of myocardial infarction in a low-risk population of US male physicians

Circulation. 2003 Aug 19;108(7):802-7. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000084546.82738.89. Epub 2003 Aug 4.


Background: Increased intake of carotenoids and vitamin E may protect against myocardial infarction (MI). However, prospective data on blood levels of carotenoids other than beta-carotene and vitamin E (tocopherol) and risk of MI are sparse.

Methods and results: We conducted a prospective, nested case-control analysis among male physicians without prior history of cardiovascular disease who were followed for up to 13 years in the Physicians' Health Study. Samples from 531 physicians diagnosed with MI were analyzed together with samples from paired control subjects, matched for age and smoking, for 5 major carotenoids (alpha- and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and lycopene), retinol, and alpha- and gamma-tocopherol. Overall, we found no evidence for a protective effect against MI for higher baseline plasma levels of retinol or any of the carotenoids measured. Among current and former smokers but not among never-smokers, higher baseline plasma levels of beta-carotene tended to be associated with lower risk (P for interaction=0.02). Men with higher plasma levels of gamma-tocopherol tended to have an increased risk of MI (P for trend=0.01).

Conclusions: These prospective data do not support an overall protective relation between plasma carotenoids or tocopherols and future MI risk among men without a history of prior cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lutein / blood
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / blood*
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Tocopherols / blood*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Xanthophylls
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • gamma-Tocopherol / blood


  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene
  • gamma-Tocopherol
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Tocopherols
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein