Low beta-carotene and lycopene levels may increase risk of heart disease

January 1, 2012

Low serum beta-carotene and lycopene concentrations may increase the risk of acute myocardial infarction in men, says a new Finnish study.

In the observational study, blood serum concentrations of beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin A and vitamin E were measured in 1,031 men aged 46–65 years to examine if the micronutrient levels were related to the risk of developing acute myocardial infarction (AMI) over an average of 11.5 years (1). The study results showed that participants with the lowest beta-carotene and lycopene concentrations had a significantly increased risk of AMI. Serum concentrations of vitamins A and E were not associated with disease risk.

The researchers concluded that low serum beta-carotene and lycopene concentrations may increase the risk of AMI in men. The results of this study would support that the intake of foods rich in these carotenoids may be useful in preventing AMI. By scavenging free radicals under oxidative stress and thereby preventing oxidative modification of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), carotenoids could protect against the development and progression of atherosclerosis, which could lead to coronary heart disease and an increased risk of myocardial infarction.

Research suggests that common antioxidants including carotenoids could be used for the prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease (2). Several epidemiological studies have shown that high dietary intake or plasma levels of carotenoids are related to fewer cardiovascular events (3). It has been reported that high concentrations of plasma or adipose tissue concentrations or a high dietary intake of carotenoids may protect against the risk of acute myocardial infarction (4-6). However, some studies have not found an association between dietary intake and plasma levels of carotenoids and acute myocardial infarction (7, 8).


  1. Karppi J. et al. Low serum lycopene and β-carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in men. The European Journal of Public Health. Published online December 2011.
  2. Willcox B. J. et al. Antioxidants in cardiovascular health and disease: key lessons from epidemiologic studies. Am J Cardiol. 2008; 101:75D–86D.
  3. Ruiz Rejon F. et al. Plasma status of retinol, alpha and gamma-tocopherols, and main carotenoids to first myocardial infarction: case control and follow-up study. Nutrition. 2002; 18:26–31.
  4. Hak A. E. et al. Plasma carotenoids and tocopherols and risk of myocardial infarction in a low-risk population of US male physicians. Circulation. 2003; 108:802–807.
  5. Klipstein-Grobusch K. et al. Dietary antioxidants and risk of myocardial infarction in the elderly: the Rotterdam Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69:261–266.
  6. Koh W. P. et al. Plasma carotenoids and risk of acute myocardial infarction in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2010; 11:1–6.
  7. Gey K. F. et al. Low plasma retinol predicts coronary events in healthy middle-aged men: the PRIME Study. Atherosclerosis. 2010; 208:270–274.
  8. Sesso H. D. et al. Plasma lycopene, other carotenoids, and retinol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81:990–997.