Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the ability of a single 24-h dietary recall (24HDR) and food questionnaires (FQ) to predict plasma carotenoid levels at the ecological level by assessing the relationship between mean plasma carotenoid levels and mean intake of fruit and vegetables measured by 24HDR and FQ across 16 European regions.
Design: A random subsample of 3089 subjects was included, stratified by age and gender. They provided blood samples and dietary information between 1992 and 2000 as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.
Results: Using Spearman's correlation coefficients, the correlations between mean regional 24HDR fruit and vegetable variables and corresponding mean plasma carotenoid levels were generally higher than the correlations using FQ means. The highest correlation was between the 24HDR citrus fruit variable and beta-cryptoxanthin (r = 0.90). For 24HDR, total fruits and vegetables were highly correlated with lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (r = 0.83-0.87), while vegetables were more closely related with lutein (r = 0.69) and zeaxanthin (r = 0.68), and fruits correlated with zeaxanthin (r = 0.87) and beta-cryptoxanthin (r = 0.84). Root vegetables (r = 0.81) and total carrots (r = 0.71) were well correlated with alpha-carotene. In the multivariate models adjusting for age, body mass index, and season, and using observations of means stratified by sex and region, the association was generally higher for 24HDR compared to FQ.
Conclusion: Mean regional intakes of fruits and vegetables in several European countries were closely correlated with corresponding mean plasma levels of individual carotenoids. Fruits and vegetables measured by 24HDR were generally better able to predict plasma carotenoids at the ecological level.