Carotenoids and cardiovascular risk

Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(34):5577-89. doi: 10.2174/138161212803307527.


Fruits and vegetables (typically associated with the Mediterranean diet) are very rich in carotenoids, i.e. fat-soluble pigments really important in human life. Structurally, carotenoids consists of eleven (beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lycopene) or ten (alpha-carotene, lutein) conjugated double bonds, responsible for their antioxidant capability in agreement with their substituents. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) particles oxidation process is the one of the most important first steps of atherosclerotic disease and, consequentially, the first pathogenetical step of cerebro- and cardiovascular events like myocardial infarction and stroke, which are the first cause of death in industrialized countries. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) also seem to be the target of Carotenoids main action, by scavenging singlet oxygen (1O2) and free radicals. Literature data showed that ROS increase atherosclerotic individual burden. The carotenoids scavenging action could reduce atherosclerosis progression partly due to such a decrease in ROS concentrations. Many studied demonstrated such a reduction by analyzing the relationship between carotenoids and Intima-Media Thickness of common carotid artery wall (CCA-IMT), [a well established marker of atherosclerosis evolution] reduction. Aim of this review is to evaluate actual knowledge about the importance of carotenoids molecules in slowing down the starting and the progression of atherosclerotic plaque, and to consider their implementation in everyone's diet as a tool to obtain a sharp decrease of LDL oxidation and their possible effect on endothelial function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Free Radical Scavengers / administration & dosage
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / pathology
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / prevention & control
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Risk Factors


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Carotenoids