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J Pediatr. 1999 Feb;134(2):160-5.

Comparison of serum concentrations of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene in a cross-sectional sample of obese and nonobese children (NHANES III). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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  • 1Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA.



Low intake of the fat-soluble antioxidants alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene has been linked to greater risks of cardiovascular disease in epidemiologic studies. Obesity in adults is associated with lower levels of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene, which may contribute to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease associated with obesity.


To examine serum concentrations of fat-soluble antioxidants in a large, nationally representative sample of obese and nonobese children.


Serum levels of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene were measured in 6139 children between the ages of 6 and 19 years enrolled in the National Health and Examination Survey, cycle III. Serum alpha-tocopherol levels were adjusted for fasting cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Nutritional intake was assessed by 24-hour dietary recall and food frequency questionnaires.


Serum levels of beta-carotene were significantly lower in obese children compared with those found in normal weight children (0.22 0.14 micromol/L vs 0.29 0.17 micromol/L, P <.001). After adjustment was done for serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels, alpha-tocopherol levels were also significantly lower in obese children (2.68 0.59 vs 3.17 0.60, P <.001). Approximately one half of obese children had serum levels of beta-carotene and adjusted alpha-tocopherol in the lowest quartile compared with approximately one quarter of normal weight children (P <.001). No significant differences were seen in reported intake of beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, fruit, or vegetables between obese and nonobese children.


Reduced serum levels of fat-soluble antioxidants are present in obese children.

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