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Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Oct;82(4):879-86.

Plasma carotene and alpha-tocopherol in relation to 10-y all-cause and cause-specific mortality in European elderly: the Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly, a Concerted Action (SENECA).

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  • 1Center for Nutrition and Health, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, Netherlands.



Only a few observational studies have related plasma carotene and alpha-tocopherol to mortality in elderly subjects.


The objective was to study the association of plasma carotene (alpha-and beta-carotene) and alpha-tocopherol with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in elderly subjects who participated in a European prospective study.


Plasma concentrations of carotene and alpha-tocopherol were measured in 1168 elderly men and women. After a follow-up period of 10 y, 388 persons had died. The association between plasma antioxidants and mortality was analyzed by using Cox proportional hazard models. To put our results in context, we performed a meta-analysis of 5 studies on plasma antioxidants and all-cause mortality in elderly populations.


Plasma carotene concentrations were associated with a lower mortality risk [adjusted rate ratio (RR) for an increment of 0.39 micromol/L: 0.79; 95% CI: 0.70, 0.89]. This lower mortality risk was observed for both cancer (RR: 0.59; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.79) and cardiovascular disease (RR: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.70, 1.00). The lower risk of cardiovascular death was confined to those with a body mass index (in kg/m2) <25 (RR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.49, 0.94). Plasma concentrations of alpha-tocopherol were not associated with all-cause or cause-specific mortality. The results for both plasma antioxidants and all-cause mortality were confirmed by the meta-analysis.


This prospective study suggests that high plasma concentrations of carotene are associated both with lower mortality from all causes and with cancer in the elderly. For cardiovascular mortality, the inverse association was confined to elderly with body mass indexes <25.

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