Trying to eat more vegetables? Snacking on carrots might help

A new study conducted by researchers at Samford University has found that consuming baby carrots three times a week significantly increases skin carotenoids in young adults. This increase was even more substantial when the carrot snacks were combined with a multivitamin containing beta carotene. The study, which will be presented at NUTRITION 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, suggests that a small dietary modification involving baby carrots can lead to increased skin carotenoid accumulation.

Carotenoids are pigments responsible for the bright colors of many fruits and vegetables. They are only found in the diet and higher levels of skin carotenoids are associated with increased antioxidant protection, lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers, and improved skin health and immune function.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 60 young adults to groups that received a four-week intervention of either Granny Smith apple slices (control), 100 grams of baby carrots, a multivitamin supplement containing beta carotene, or a combination of baby carrots and the supplement. Skin carotenoid levels were measured using a noninvasive research-grade spectroscopy instrument called a VeggieMeter.

The researchers found that compared to pre-intervention levels, skin carotenoid scores were significantly increased by 10.8% in the group receiving the baby carrots and by 21.6% in the group receiving the carrots and the supplement. Skin carotenoid levels were not changed in the control group or in those receiving only the supplement.

The researchers found that the combination of baby carrots and a multivitamin supplement containing beta carotene can have an interactive effect on skin carotenoid accumulation. They suggest that people should choose a multivitamin that contains beta carotene and eat baby carrots at least three times a week to see a beneficial effect.

The researchers also note that carotenoid accumulation was not increased by multivitamin supplementation alone, suggesting that there may be differences in how carotenoids are absorbed depending on whether they are from food or supplements. The researchers plan to explore the mechanism behind these findings and study the effects of other carotenoid-rich foods, such as sweet potato or green leafy vegetables.

The findings presented at NUTRITION 2024 have not undergone the same peer-review process required for publication in a scientific journal and should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.

NUTRITION 2024 is the flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and is the premier educational event for nutritional professionals around the globe. The conference brings together lab scientists, practicing clinicians, population health researchers, and community intervention investigators to identify solutions to today’s greatest nutrition challenges.

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