High intakes of antioxidants in fruit, vegetables and wine are thought to protect against coronary heart disease (CHD). Because people in Toulouse have a much lower incidence of CHD compared with Belfast, the plasma concentrations of antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in the two populations have been compared. The major difference was in some of the plasma carotenoids. Hydroxy-carotenoids were twice as high in Toulouse in both sexes, notably lutein which occurs principally in dark green vegetables and beta-cryptoxanthin which occurs chiefly in citrus fruits. In addition, alpha-carotene was 50% higher in Toulouse, gamma-tocopherol was 50% higher in Belfast. Other plasma vitamins and carotenoids were not significantly different. If antioxidants play a role in preventing CHD, then the hydroxy-carotenoids are major candidates for further investigation.