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Published: Sunday, 12/12/2010

Diet: Good-for-you things come in orange

Eat your carrots. And have some leftover pumpkin pie.

People with high blood levels of alpha-carotene — an antioxidant found in orange fruits and vegetables — live longer and are less likely to die of heart disease and cancer than people who have little or none of it in their bloodstream, a new study reports.

The study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, only an association.

Still, its results are intriguing. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed alpha-carotene levels in blood samples from more than 15,000 adults who participated in a follow-up study of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. By 2006, researchersdetermined, 3,810 of the participants had died. Those with the highest levels of alpha-carotene were more likely to have survived, even after the scientists controlled for variables like age and smoking.

Those with the highest concentrations of the antioxidant were almost 40 percent less likely to have died than those with the lowest; those with midrange levels were 27 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest levels.

“It's pretty dramatic,” said the lead author, Dr. Chaoyang Li, a C.D.C. epidemiologist.



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