Background: Epidemiologic studies suggest that the antioxidant potential of dietary carotenoids may protect against the oxidative damage that can result in inflammation.
Objective: We investigated the hypothesis that some dietary carotenoids are associated with a reduced risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis (IP).
Design: The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer Incidence (EPIC)-Norfolk study is a population-based, prospective study of >25,000 subjects who completed a baseline 7-d diet diary and were followed up to identify new cases of IP, which was defined as synovitis that affected > or = 2 joint groups. Dietary carotenoid intakes were computed from the diet diaries of these subjects, and a nested, case-control analysis was undertaken to compare carotenoid intake between case subjects and age- and sex-matched control subjects.
Results: Eighty-eight incident cases of IP that occurred in the population surveyed were ascertained via the Norfolk Arthritis Register. The mean daily intakes of zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin were 20% and 40% lower, respectively, in the cases than in the 176 controls, but there were no significant differences in the intakes of either lutein or lycopene. Those subjects in the top one-third of intake of zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin were at a lower risk of developing IP than were subjects in the lowest one-third [odds ratios (95% CI): 0.48 (0.24, 0.94) and 0.51 (0.25, 1.02) for zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, respectively]. The association with beta-cryptoxanthin was significant after adjustments were made for total energy and protein intakes and for cigarette smoking.
Conclusion: These data are consistent with previous evidence showing that a modest increase in beta-cryptoxanthin intake, equivalent to one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice per day, is associated with a reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.