In addition to flavonoids, fruits and vegetables contain large quantities of carotenoids, a family of fat-soluble antioxidants. Several studies suggest that these nutrients—chiefly beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene—are associated with relatively low levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). This association does not necessarily mean that carotenoids lower CRP levels, though this effect would be consistent with other research on antioxidants. Carotenoid levels might simply reflect fruit and vegetable consumption and the combined anti-inflammatory action of carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamins.
In one study of several thousand people, researchers found that high levels of all the major dietary carotenoids were associated with low levels of inflammatory markers, including CRP. Another group of researchers found that both CRP and high white blood cell counts, another marker or inflammation, were associated with low beta-carotene levels. All of the major dietary carotenoids neutralize peroxinitrite, a type of free radical that increases inflammation.
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