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Higher Blood Levels of Carotenoids Linked to Slower Cellular Aging

Scientists are able to determine the biological age of cells by measuring the length of telomeres, which are the tiny caps on the end of DNA strands that become shorter as we age. Shortened telomeres have been associated with poor health behaviors, age-related diseases and early mortality. A recent study suggests that higher blood levels of carotenoids may help slow cellular aging, as evidenced by longer telomeres.

Participants in the study included 3,660 people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which ran from 1999 to 2002. The levels of carotenoids-alpha-carotene, beta-carotene (trans + cis), beta-cryptoxanthin, combined lutein/zeaxanthin, and trans-lycopene-were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. Telomere length was measured using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method.

After examining the data, the researchers found that doubling the blood levels of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin were associated with 1.76%, 2.22%, and 2.02% longer telomeres, respectively. They also found that the difference between the lowest levels of carotenoids and the highest was a 5-8% increase in telomere length.

Researchers from Seoul National University in Korea conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on January 27, 2016, in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Carotenoids are the phytochemicals that provide the bright red, orange or yellow color to many fruits and vegetables. They serve as antioxidants and can be a good source of vitamin A. They have been shown in previous research to protect against cardiovascular disease, macular eye disease and some cancers.

If you want to increase your carotenoid intake, make sure that your meals contain a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors. The beneficial actions of carotenoids are optimal when a variety of carotenoids are consumed together.

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