A new study demonstrates increased level of blood carotenoids (ie: high consumption of carotenoid-rich foods) increases telomere length. Telomere length is a biomarker for age-related diseases. Hence, shorter telomere length is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of developing age-related disease and vice versa.
In this study, 3660 participants aged 20-year-old and above US adults were recruited in the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The concentration of carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene (trans + cis), beta-cryptoxanthin, combined lutein/zeaxanthin and trans-lycopene) were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography. DNA samples were extracted from whole blood and the leukocyte telomere length (T/S ratio), which was determined by the ratio of telomere repeat copy number (T) to the single-copy gene (S) copy number (T/S ratio) as control to normalize DNA.
From the results, it was found that blood alpha-carotene, beta-carotene (trans+ cis) and beta-cryptoxanthin were significantly associated with 1.76%, 2.22% and 2.02% longer telomeres respectively. However blood lutein/zeaxanthin and trans-lycopene did not show any statistical significance. Additionally, when comparing to the lowest carotenoid (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene (trans+ cis) and beta-cyptoxanthin) quartiles, the telomere length increased from 5-8% in the highest carotenoid quartiles.
“Telomeres are specialized structures at the end of the chromosomes to protect the loss of our genetic data during cell division. Unfortunately, the length of the telomeres shortens each time after cell division and the shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. Hence, it is crucial to preserve the length of telomeres to ensure proper cell functions. The length of the telomere determines the life expectancy of the cell by regulating the number of replications that a cell undergoes. The results from this study is very encouraging as high dietary intakes of carotenoids especially alpha-carotene and beta-carotene increase telomere lengths, which suggests reduced aging and risks for age-related diseases or better health,” says CheeYen Lau, Nutritionist at ExcelVite.
Min, KB. & Min JY. (2016). Association between leukocyte telomere length and serum carotenoid in US adults. Eur J Nutr. doi:10.1007/s00394-016-1152-x.