Carotenoid-rich dietary patterns during midlife may prevent brain ageing

March 21, 2014

A new French study reports that middle-aged adults with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids seem to maintain their cognitive function for a longer time.

The observational study documented the intakes of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables of 2983 middle- aged adults and measured their cognitive performance (using six neuropsychological tests) 13 years later (1). The study results showed that – after adjustment for lifestyle and health factors – participants with higher intakes of orange- and green-colored fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils and soup, showed increa- sed blood concentrations of beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as a significantly better cognitive performance later in life, compared to participants with low carotenoid intakes.

The researchers commented that further studies were needed to confirm whether a diet providing sufficient quantity and variety of colored fruits and vegetables may contribute to the preservation of cognitive function during ageing. Carotenoids may help to protect the brain against oxidative damage occurring during the ageing process. In addition to their antioxidant properties, carotenoids also exhibit anti-inflammatory effi- cacy, probably through the modulation of an enzyme, which oxidizes polyunsaturated fatty acids in lipids, and activation of the expression of genes involved in cell communication (2). Some longitudinal studies have reported lower cognitive decline (3, 4) or lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (5) among adults with higher intakes or plasma concentrations of beta-carotene. However, other studies have not reported such associa- tions.


  1. Kesse-Guyot E. et al. Carotenoid-rich dietary patterns during midlife and subsequent cognitive function. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014; 111(5):915–923.
  2. Polidori M. C. et al. Conflict of evidence: carotenoids and other micronutrients in the prevention and treatment of cognitive impairment. Biofactors. 2012; 38:167–171.
  3. Wengreen H. J. et al. Antioxidant intake and cognitive function of elderly men and women: the Cache County Study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007; 11:230–237.
  4. Hu P. et al. Association between serum beta-carotene levels and decline of cognitive function in high- functioning older persons with or without apolipoprotein E 4 alleles: MacArthur studies of successful aging. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006; 61:616–620.
  5. Engelhart M. J. et al. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2002; 287:3223–3229.