High blood levels of antioxidants may prevent the risk for cardiovascular disease

July 21, 2014

A new US study reports that high blood concentrations of antioxidant carotenoids and vitamin E in young adulthood may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in middle age.

The observational study measured the blood concentrations of carotenoids and vitamin E of 4,810 partici- pants (mean age 25 years) and documented cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) during 25 years (1). The results showed that participants with high carotenoid and/or vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) levels had a signi- ficantly decreased risk for developing CVD, compared to participants with low levels. High blood gamma-tocopherol concentrations seemed to increase CVD risk.

The researchers commented the findings indicate that an antioxidant rich, plant based dietary pattern in young adulthood – including fruits and vegetables with carotenoids as well as alpha-tocopherol-rich olive and sunflower oils – may reduce the risk for CVD events through middle age. Serum antioxidant concentrations were measured because they much better reflect nutritional status and its potential association with disease risk than self-reported intakes (e.g., by food frequency questionnaires). Earlier study results indicated that gamma-tocopherol, found in soybean, canola and corn oils, may have different effects on health than alpha-tocopherol (2). In the US, the average blood plasma level of gamma-tocopherol is four or more times higher than those of European countries that consume sunflower and olive oil.


  1. Odegaard A. O. et al. Serum Dietary Antioxidants in Young Adulthood and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in Middle Age: The CARDIA Study. Circulation. 2014; 129:A34.
  2. Marchese M. E. et al. The vitamin E isoforms alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol have opposite associations with spirometric parameters: the CARDIA study. Respir Res. 2014; 15:31.