Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is highly prevalent worldwide. Oxidative stress is thought to be a major mechanism, and previous epidemiological studies found higher serum levels of antioxidant carotenoids were associated with reduced risk for development and progression of NAFLD. The objective of this analysis is to examine cross-sectional associations between dietary and serum levels of carotenoids in relation to NAFLD among a nationally representative sample of US adults. We used data from the 2003–2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Dietary carotenoid intake was estimated from a 24-hour recall, while serum carotenoids were measured from 2003 to 2006. The NAFLD status was determined based upon US Fatty Liver Index (FLI) value ≥30. Regression models were used to estimate associations between carotenoids and NAFLD by controlling for covariates and adjusting for survey design variables. Overall, 33% of participants were classified as having NAFLD. Intake of all carotenoids, with the exception of lycopene, was lower among those with NAFLD. This association was significant for the highest quartiles of intake of α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, and lutein/zeaxanthin. For serum measures, the highest level of all carotenoids was associated with significantly reduced odds of NAFLD. In conclusion, higher intake and serum levels of most carotenoids were associated with lower odds of having NAFLD. Identification of such modifiable lifestyle factors provide an opportunity to limit or prevent the disease and its progression.
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