Antioxidant compounds in oranges promote healthy lungs

May 15, 2001 in Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Antioxidant compounds in oranges promote healthy lungs

New research from the University at Buffalo has suggested that Vitamin E and plant compound called beta-cryptoxanthin found primarily in oranges are associated with healthy lung function.

The researchers published an earlier study showing that oxygen molecules known as free radicals were implicated in impaired lung function. The current research investigated the association between blood levels of certain antioxidant vitamins known to dispose of free radicals and the results of lung function tests.

Previous studies on the effect of antioxidant nutrients, particularly beta-carotene, on lung function had used dietary intake to estimate antioxidant level and results were inconsistent. This investigation measured blood-serum levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, retinol (a form of vitamin A) and the carotenoids beta-crytoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and lycopene in 1,616 randomly selected residents of Western New York. All participants performed lung function tests to measure the volume of air they could expel in one breath, known as forced vital capacity (FVC), and the volume expelled in one second, called forced expiratory volume1 (FEV1).

Analysis of antioxidant levels and lung function based on these tests showed that lung function was better as serum levels of antioxidant vitamins increased. Higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-crytoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and retinol were associated with better test scores. Beta-crytoxanthin and vitamin E showed the strongest relationship to the two measures of lung function. Participants who had half of the average concentration of these nutrients in their bloodstream showed a reduction in lung function equivalent to 1-2 years aging of the lungs. Low levels of both vitamin C and vitamin E were associated with the lowest results on the tests, but vitamin E had the stronger relationship.

The findings indicate that carotenoids, in addition to vitamin E, may play a role in respiratory health and that the most important carotenoid may not be beta-carotene, as previously thought.

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