Plasma Carotenoids, Tocopherols, and Retinol in the Age-Stratified (35-74 Years) General Population: A Cross-Sectional Study in Six European Countries

Nutrients. 2016 Sep 30;8(10):614. doi: 10.3390/nu8100614.


Blood micronutrient status may change with age. We analyzed plasma carotenoids, α-/γ-tocopherol, and retinol and their associations with age, demographic characteristics, and dietary habits (assessed by a short food frequency questionnaire) in a cross-sectional study of 2118 women and men (age-stratified from 35 to 74 years) of the general population from six European countries. Higher age was associated with lower lycopene and α-/β-carotene and higher β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, α-/γ-tocopherol, and retinol levels. Significant correlations with age were observed for lycopene (r = -0.248), α-tocopherol (r = 0.208), α-carotene (r = -0.112), and β-cryptoxanthin (r = 0.125; all p < 0.001). Age was inversely associated with lycopene (-6.5% per five-year age increase) and this association remained in the multiple regression model with the significant predictors (covariables) being country, season, cholesterol, gender, smoking status, body mass index (BMI (kg/m²)), and dietary habits. The positive association of α-tocopherol with age remained when all covariates including cholesterol and use of vitamin supplements were included (1.7% vs. 2.4% per five-year age increase). The association of higher β-cryptoxanthin with higher age was no longer statistically significant after adjustment for fruit consumption, whereas the inverse association of α-carotene with age remained in the fully adjusted multivariable model (-4.8% vs. -3.8% per five-year age increase). We conclude from our study that age is an independent predictor of plasma lycopene, α-tocopherol, and α-carotene.

Keywords: Europe; age; carotenoids; lycopene; micronutrients; plasma; retinol; tocopherols.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Beta-Cryptoxanthin / blood
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Lutein / blood
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tocopherols / blood*
  • Vitamin A / blood*
  • Zeaxanthins / blood
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • gamma-Tocopherol / blood


  • Beta-Cryptoxanthin
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene
  • gamma-Tocopherol
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Tocopherols
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein