Objective: To determine if dietary antioxidants play a role in preventing coronary heart disease (CHD) by having an impact on lipid levels.
Methods: Data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study were used to assess the associations of reported intake of vitamins A, C, E and beta carotene, and their use in supplements, with lipid levels in a black and white, healthy adult (18 to 30 years of age at the baseline examination) population.
Results: After adjusting for age, education level, physical activity, body size, alcohol consumption and caloric intake, vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin C (white women) intake were directly associated with HDL-cholesterol levels among women who smoked cigarettes, with the strongest associations being observed for white women. Black men who took supplements of vitamins A and C and did not smoke cigarettes had significantly higher HDL-cholesterol levels compared to those in the lowest levels of dietary intake. Although vitamin E was associated with higher levels of HDL-cholesterol, the association was only of borderline significance among white men who smoked cigarettes (p = 0.06). We did not observe any consistent associations between antioxidants and other plasma lipids, including total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, or triglycerides.
Conclusions: We conclude that dietary antioxidants are associated with HDL-cholesterol levels in some subsets of the population, although these associations may be operating in conjunction with other lifestyle behaviors.