Alpha-Carotene Linked to Longevity, Study Suggests

December 14, 2010

Could dining on pumpkin pie, carrot cake and sweet potato casserole help to prolong your life? Probably not, but a new study suggests that diets with plenty of these yellow-orange vegetables—which are rich in alpha-carotene—may be associated with a longer life.

Using data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), researchers selected a group of over 15,000 study participants. Their average blood level of alpha-carotene was 4.79 ug/dL at the beginning of the study, which lasted from 1988 to 2006. At the end of the study period, 3,810 participants had died.

Researchers were able to determine that blood levels of alpha-carotene were inversely associated with risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease and all other causes. Compared to people with blood levels of alpha-carotene from 0 to 1 ug/dL, for example, people with average levels of 9 ug/dL or more had a 39% lower risk of premature death. These results held true even when lifestyle habits, demographics and other health risks were factored in.

For years, alpha-carotene played second fiddle to its more famous cousin, beta-carotene, but both are rich sources of antioxidants; numerous studies have shown that fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants, seem to help prevent or delay the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Alpha-carotene is found in vegetables like green peas, broccoli, green beans, spinach, collards and turnip greens, as well as in pumpkins and other squash, carrots and sweet potatoes.

This study confirms results from other studies that have found diets sufficient in alpha-carotene may reduce the risk of premature death. Though it may be too soon to call carrots and pumpkins the next new "superfoods," this information supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendations to eat three to five servings of vegetables daily.

Source: Chaoyang Li, MD, PhD et al. "Serum-Carotene Concentrations and Risk of Death Among US Adults: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study." Archives of Internal Medicine. Published online November 22, 2010.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 14 Dec 2010

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015