Higher intakes of vegetables and fruits are associated with a lower risk of certain human cancers. A biomarker of vegetable and fruit intake would be a valuable research tool. A cross-sectional study assessed the association between plasma carotenoid concentrations and intakes of vegetables and fruits. Plasma carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lycopene) were measured in 50 male and 49 female participants, aged 18-37 years, with a wide range of habitual vegetable and fruit intakes. Dietary intakes were assessed via a food frequency questionnaire. Intake of vegetables and fruits and high carotenoid foods were measured. The sum of the plasma carotenoids (excluding lycopene) was highly correlated with intake of total vegetables and fruits (r = 0.59). Of the individual plasma carotenoids, plasma alpha-carotene had the highest correlation with intakes of both total vegetables (r = 0.50) and total fruits (r = 0.58). Intakes of foods with high carotenoid contents were correlated with their corresponding plasma concentrations as follows: high beta-carotene foods (r = 0.41); high lutein foods (r = 0.46); and high lycopene foods (r = 0.11). Multiple regression analyses showed that intake of total vegetables and fruits was the most significant determinant of each plasma carotenoid except lycopene. The utility of combining the plasma carotenoids as biomarkers of vegetable and fruit intake was assessed by a stepwise regression of total vegetable and fruit intake on plasma carotenoids. Significant determinants of intake of total vegetables and fruits were alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and energy intake (R2 = 0.53).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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