Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world. But before people develop this health problem, most of them first experience conditions like high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels, as well as excessive amounts of body fat around the waist. These risk factors are often clustered together and referred to as metabolic syndrome.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 34.2 percent of Americans adults suffer from metabolic syndrome. This is very worrisome since metabolic syndrome also increases diabetes, stroke, and mortality risk. Fortunately, researchers from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health have found a simple yet effective way to prevent metabolic syndrome. Their study, which was published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, revealed that carotenoids, especially alpha- and beta-carotene, can reduce a person’s risk of metabolic syndrome.
Carotenoids are a group of bright red, yellow, and orange pigments that give certain fruits and vegetables these colors. These compounds are primarily produced by the plants to help them absorb light for photosynthesis and to protect them from damage. However, countless studies have shown that humans can also benefit from carotenoids since they have potent antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.
In this study, the researchers wanted to determine if there was an association between carotenoid levels in the serum and metabolic syndrome. To do this, they conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control, cross-sectional, and cohort studies from the years 1997 to 2017. A total of 33 studies were included in the review, while there were 11 in the meta-analysis. From these studies, the team was able to find data for more than 29,000 participants.
The results of the study showed that higher levels of carotenoid consumption was associated with a lower incidence of metabolic syndrome. Moreover, these relationships were observed to be strongest for beta-carotene, followed by alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Although these results suggest a correlation, and not causation, between carotenoids and metabolic syndrome, the researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of these compounds help improve cardio-metabolic health.
“Although there are a host of factors that explain inter-individual variability and carotenoid bioavailability in humans, these data suggest that carotenoids may play an essential role in adipose tissue biology, including the control of adipogenesis, oxidative stress, and the production of adipokines and inflammatory mediators that affect central adiposity and the occurrence of insulin resistance,” said the authors of the study.
Unfortunately, a typical western diet consists of low beta-carotene levels. Because of this, the researchers suggest that there is also a need for establishing a recommended daily intake in order to prevent metabolic syndrome and the different cardiometabolic diseases associated with it.
Different types of carotenoids
There are two major types of carotenoids. The first of these are the xanthophylls, which include lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. These pigments contain oxygen molecules and tend to have a more yellow appearance. Additionally, most compounds in this group have protective effects against sunlight and have been associated with better eye health.
To enjoy these benefits, increase your intake of xanthophyll-rich foods such as:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Egg yolks
- Yellow squash
The second group of carotenoids is known as the carotenes. Unlike xanthophylls, these pigments do not contain oxygen and are mostly colored orange. The most prevalent forms of carotenes include lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene, which is a known precursor of vitamin A. Some examples of foods that are rich in these compounds include:
- Sweet potatoes
01/24/2019 / By Ellaine Castillo – Food News