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.