Major Study: He who eats most veggies lives longest | 11/22/10

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Read More: archives of internal medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vegetables

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Your mom wasn't lying about those veggies. A new study released by the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that people with high blood levels of the antioxidant alpha-carotene -- found in a variety of vegetables -- were less likely to die during a 14-year longitudinal study, compared with people with low levels of the carotenoid.

According to the study, a major contributor to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease may be oxygen-related damage of DNA, protein and fat cells. That damage can be mitigated by the antioxidant action of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene. Most people get these nutrients through foods, like fruits and veggies, that are loaded with them. (More on 5 Ways to Get Oatmeal in Your Diet, Deliciously)

For the new study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitored alpha-carotene levels in the blood of 15,318 adults, age 20 or older, who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study between 1988 and 1994. In 2006, researchers surveyed how many of their sample had died and from what cause. They found that 3,810 had died, and that people with the highest levels of alpha-carotene in the blood were significantly less likely to die than those with lowest levels.

Compared with the lowest-level group, those with between 0 and 1 micrograms of alpha-carotene per deciliter of blood -- a small, but normal amount -- people who had between 2 and 3 mcg/dL of alpha-carotene were 23% less likely to die of any cause. What's more, the risk of death decreased as alpha-carotene increased: people with 4-5 mcg/dL were 27% less likely to die than people in the lowest-level group; the reduction in death risk was 34% for those in the 6-8 mcg/dL group, and 39% for people in the highest-level group, with 9 mcg/dL or higher. (More on Top 10 Protected Foods)

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