The effects of serum beta-carotene concentration and burden of inflammation on all-cause mortality risk in high-functioning older persons: MacArthur studies of successful aging

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004 Aug;59(8):849-54. doi: 10.1093/gerona/59.8.m849.


Background: It remains unclear to what extent the associations between low serum beta-carotene concentration and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancers are attributable to inflammation. The objective of this study was to evaluate simultaneously the effects of serum beta-carotene concentration and inflammation on the subsequent all-cause mortality risk in high-functioning older persons.

Methods: The authors conducted a prospective cohort study using information from 672 participants from the MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Baseline information was obtained for serum concentrations of beta-carotene, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, cholesterols, and albumin; body mass index; waist:hip ratio; prevalent medical conditions; health behaviors; and medications. Sex-specific univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to study the effects of low beta-carotene, high inflammation burden, or both on 7-year all-cause mortality rates while adjusting for other confounders.

Results: The serum beta-carotene concentration was inversely associated with C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels. After adjustment for inflammation markers and other covariates, the relative risks for low beta-carotene for the 7-year all-cause mortality risk were 2.30 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.23 to 4.31) in men and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.42 to 1.75) in women. Compared with men with high beta-carotene levels and low inflammation, the multiply adjusted relative risk for low beta-carotene and high inflammation burden was 3.78 (95% CI, 1.69 to 8.47) in men.

Conclusions: Low levels of serum beta-carotene are independently associated with an increased all-cause mortality risk in older men, even after adjustment for the effects of inflammation and other risk factors. In men, but not women, a synergistic effect occurs between low beta-carotene concentration and high inflammation burden in predicting higher mortality rates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • Prospective Studies
  • beta Carotene / blood*


  • Interleukin-6
  • beta Carotene
  • C-Reactive Protein