Fruits and vegetables (typically associated with the Mediterranean diet) are very rich in carotenoids, i.e. fat-soluble pigments
really important in human life. Structurally, carotenoids consists of eleven (beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lycopene) or ten (alpha-carotene,
lutein) conjugated double bonds, responsible for their antioxidant capability in agreement with their substituents. Low-Density
Lipoprotein (LDL) particles oxidation process is the one of the most important first steps of atherosclerotic disease and, consequentially,
the first pathogenetical step of cerebro- and cardiovascular events like myocardial infarction and stroke, which are the first cause of death
in industrialized countries. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) also seem to be the target of Carotenoids main action, by scavenging singlet
oxygen (1O2) and free radicals. Literature data showed that ROS increase atherosclerotic individual burden. The carotenoids scavenging
action could reduce atherosclerosis progression partly due to such a decrease in ROS concentrations. Many studied demonstrated such a
reduction by analyzing the relationship between carotenoids and Intima-Media Thickness of common carotid artery wall (CCA-IMT), [a
well established marker of atherosclerosis evolution] reduction. Aim of this review is to evaluate actual knowledge about the importance
of carotenoids molecules in slowing down the starting and the progression of atherosclerotic plaque, and to consider their implementation
in everyone's diet as a tool to obtain a sharp decrease of LDL oxidation and their possible effect on endothelial function.
Keywords: Carotenoids, cardiovascular risk, oxidative stress, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular prevention, Mediterranean diet, fat-soluble pigments, LDL oxidation, CCA-IMT, endothelial function.
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