Objective: To describe the distribution of carotenoid intakes and important food sources of carotenoids in the diet of a representative population of older Australians.
Design: Population-based cohort study.
Setting: Two post-code areas in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia.
Subjects: We studied 2012 (86%) of the 2334 participants aged 55 + years attending the 5-year follow-up of the cross-sectional Blue Mountains Eye Study (BMES), who completed a detailed semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire. The intakes for five carotenoids were studied: α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin combined, and lycopene.
Results: The mean intake per day for each carotenoid was: α-carotene, 2675 μg; β-carotene equivalents, 7301 μg; β-cryptoxanthin, 299 μg; lutein and zeaxanthin, 914 μg; lycopene, 3741 μg; retinol, 653 μg; total vitamin A, 1872 μg retinol equivalents. β-Carotene equivalents contribute a substantial proportion of total vitamin A intake (65%) in this population. Women had slightly higher intakes than men for α-carotene, β-carotene equivalents, and lutein and zeaxanthin (P<0.05) . Carrots and pumpkin were the main contributors to α-carotene and β-carotene equivalent intakes. Orange juice, oranges and papaw were the main contributors to β-cryptoxanthin intake. Broccoli, green beans and oranges contributed substantially to lutein and zeaxanthin intake. The main contributors to lycopene intake were tomatoes and bolognaise sauce.
Conclusions: Vitamin A intake in this population is high relative to the Australian Recommended Dietary Intake. Carotenoid intakes, particularly β-carotene, make a substantial contribution, particularly from fruit and vegetables. This study provides important information as a basis for examining associations between dietary carotenoid intake and eye disease in the BMES.