Skin carotenoid status measured by resonance Raman spectroscopy as a biomarker of fruit and vegetable intake in preschool children

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;66(5):555-60. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.31. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Background/objective: Dietary assessment in children is difficult, suggesting a need to develop more objective biomarkers of intake. Resonance Raman spectroscopy (RRS) is a non-invasive, validated method of measuring carotenoid status in skin as a biomarker of fruit/vegetable intake. The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of using RRS in preschool children, to describe inter-individual variability in skin carotenoid status and to identify factors associated with the biomarker in this population.

Subjects/methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 381 economically disadvantaged preschoolers in urban centers in Connecticut (USA). In all, 85.5% were black non-Hispanic or Hispanic/Latino, and 14.1% were obese and 16.9% were overweight by age- and sex-specific body mass index (BMI) percentiles. Children had their skin carotenoid status assessed by RRS in the palm of the hand. Fruit/vegetable consumption was assessed by a brief parent/guardian-completed food frequency screener and a liking survey.

Results: We observed inter-individual variation in RRS values that was nearly normally distributed. In multiple regression analysis, higher carotenoid status, measured by RRS, was positively associated with fruit/vegetable consumption (P=0.02) and fruit/vegetable preference (P<0.01). Lower carotenoid status was observed among younger children, those participating in the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and those with greater adiposity (P<0.05 for all).

Conclusions: We observed wide variability in skin carotenoid status in a population of young children, as assessed by RRS. Parent-reported fruit/vegetable intake and several demographic factors were significantly associated with RRS-measured skin carotenoid status. We recommend further development of this biomarker in children, including evaluating response to controlled interventions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Age Factors
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Connecticut
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet* / standards
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Food Services
  • Fruit
  • Hand
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Parents
  • Regression Analysis
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables


  • Biomarkers
  • Carotenoids