Serum carotenoid concentrations predict lung function evolution in young adults: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Nov;94(5):1211-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.019067. Epub 2011 Sep 14.


Background: A higher dietary intake of carotenoid-rich foods and higher circulating concentrations of carotenoids have been associated with better lung function in cross-sectional studies; however, the longitudinal association between carotenoids and lung function has shown conflicting results.

Objective: We examined the longitudinal association between serum carotenoids (β-cryptoxanthin, α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and lycopene) and the evolution of lung function.

Design: We evaluated our hypothesis in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) prospective cohort study. Spirometry testing was conducted at year 0 (1985-1986) and at follow-up in years 2, 5, 10, and 20; serum carotenoids were assayed at years 0 and 15, and diet was assessed at years 0 and 20.

Results: Year 0 sum of provitamin A carotenoids and β-cryptoxanthin concentrations were associated with maximum forced vital capacity (FVC) (P ≤ 0.01) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)) (P ≤ 0.05) (maximum across years 0-10) in linear regression models adjusted for age, race, height, study center, amount of physical activity, smoking status, and BMI. Year 0 lutein/zeaxanthin and lycopene were not associated with maximum lung function. Baseline concentrations of lutein/zeaxanthin, lycopene, sum of the 3 provitamin A carotenoids, β-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin were each inversely associated with a decline from maximum FVC and FEV(1) (P ≤ 0.04). The sum of provitamin A carotenoids and lycopene remained significant after adjustment for dietary intake related to serum carotenoids (P ≤ 0.03). The 15-y change in provitamin A carotenoid and lutein/zeaxanthin concentrations was associated with a slower decline from maximum FVC and FEV(1) (P ≤ 0.04).

Conclusion: These findings support an association between serum carotenoid concentrations and a decline in lung function.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / growth & development
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vital Capacity
  • Young Adult


  • Carotenoids