According to Spanish researchers, a high level of carotenes in the bloodstream is associated with a lower extent of atherosclerosis in the arteries and, therefore, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Atherosclerosis and cardiac risk
Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fat, generally LDL or "bad" cholesterol, on the inner walls of the blood vessels. This build-up, in the form of atherosclerotic plaques, causes a narrowing and hardening of blood vessels, hindering the blood's circulation.
Atherosclerotic plaques can rupture and form clots that obstruct the blood flow, which can lead to heart attack, when the blood doesn't reach the heart, or ischaemic stroke, when blood doesn't reach the brain.
The role of carotenes
Carotenes are phytochemicals found in yellow, orange and green fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, rapini, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, yellow bell peppers, mango, papaya, apricots and pumpkins. They go by the names of beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Carotenes are potentially capable of keeping atherosclerosis in check. They have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies so far, however, have not been conclusive.
The research, findings
The study followed 200 people, aged between 50 and 70, who were enrolled in a large study called DIABIMCAP (Carotid Atherosclerosis in Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic Individuals).
Participants were analysed with regard to two parameters: 1) the concentration of carotenes in the blood and 2) the presence of atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid artery. The carotid arteries are major blood vessels that provide your brain's blood supply.
The findings: the greater the concentration of carotenes in the blood, the lesser the atherosclerotic burden, particularly in women, the researchers found.
This was an observational study and does not prove cause and effect.
Source: Clinical Nutrition, May 13, 2023.
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