2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

The Carrot and Your Longevity

Posted 05/17/2011

Well, not only the carrot. The sweet potato, too, and also the squash, greens (collard, turnip, and mustard), apples, green beans, cantaloupe, broccoli, and tomatoes, a colorful list you can etch into your brain and learn more about by clicking here.

Carotenoids are a group of antioxidants synthesized by plants, and they circulate through your body after you’ve eaten the fruits and veggies containing them. You’ve likely heard of alpha and beta carotene, lycopene, and lutein. You might not know zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, and the mysterious sounding beta-cryptoxanthin.

Any competent nutritionist will be happy to bend your ear on how oxidative damage to DNA plays an important role in why we age and get chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer, and how as a result we die younger than we’d hoped. She’ll tell you that antioxidants, especially by means of healthful eating and judicious use of nutritional supplements, can play a starring role in disease prevention.

And then, as she offers to share her carrots (nutritionists are all svelte carrot-munchers), she’ll snow you with the data of an extremely important study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that, other than swearing off drunk driving, eating your vegetables is the single greatest protection against premature death.

In this government-funded study, epidemiologists followed 15,318 adults over age 20, tracking chronic disease and death against blood levels of the most potent carotenoid, alpha carotene. They began the study in 1988 and collected data on this huge group through 2006.

With all the data finally analyzed, the results were clear: higher blood levels of alpha carotene matched lower levels of death from all causes–heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory illness. Conversely, lower alpha carotene levels meant significantly higher death rates.

Conclusion? Alpha carotene protects you from premature death. Further debate unnecessary.

However, lest you think you can get off the hook by grabbing a bottle of supplements to make up for years of vegetable-phobic dietary indiscretions, let’s review a few facts. Once upon a time beta carotene supplements were all the rage as life-extending antioxidants…until studies showed they didn’t really do much of anything. It turned out that taking pure beta carotene blocked your body’s ability to absorb the better carotenes.

Using mixed carotene supplements is certainly a wiser choice, but I recommend these only if you’ve accumulated years of veggie avoidance that places your carotene levels in the pathetic zone. If you take the carotene pledge and “find vegetables” the way some people find Jesus, you won’t need a carotene supplement. There are many cookbooks out there to help. Here’s one to consider. Getting a sharp knife and cutting up raw veggies every day might be the easiest plan of all.

If you habitually go brain-dead in the produce section of your grocery, your shopping cart overfilled with Pringles, Twinkies, and Diet Coke (eek!), you can offset some of this benign self-neglect with Integrative Therapeutics Pure Harvest Greens, a concentrated blend that provides about five servings of veggies per scoop. Better yet, schedule a visit with our nutritionist Marla Feingold, a former professional chef who loves nothing better than helping people learn how to prepare good food, including all-important vegetables.

Having your doctor measure the level of carotene in your blood can produce feelings of either regret or reassurance. WholeHealth Chicago patients, generally a healthy bunch with enviable levels, can have theirs checked to experience the dual joys of self-righteousness and a forecast of longevity. The printed result is suitable for framing and more reliable than a palm-reader fingering your life-line. If you’re on the threshold of a committed relationship, you can staple your results to your negative HIV test.

Speaking of tests, spring is a good time to check your vitamin D levels, especially after this dark, dark winter. Like low carotene, low levels of D are linked to cancer and heart disease risk.

But if you’re practicing safe sex, eating your fruits and veggies, and taking a vitamin D supplement, you needn’t have any of these tests (they aren’t inexpensive). With a healthy carotene intake, your main life challenge might be accumulating enough retirement money to last your extra-extra-long life.

Be well,

David Edelberg, MD

Leave a Comment


  1. Nanci Chesek says:

    I love your articles and share them with friends. They’re helpful, honest and promote good eating habits rather than bottled supplements. Thank you!

  2. Terri Albert says:

    Eating raw sweet potatoes doesn’t sound very appealing! I eat them–but cook them first!

  3. Judy Kayser says:

    As always, good information written with good humor as well.

  4. sheryl says:

    Dr. E

    have you every heard of the carrot juice diet that cures cancer? Apparently this carrot juice has a very high dose of oxalate acid which has shown positive results for cancer pts. I spoke to a cancer surviving pt who followed this diet. Pt had skin cancer. The tumor is completely gone dont know what stage. There is also discussing regarding fibromyalgia on his website…doesn’t oxylate acid cause more pain for fibro pts…i thought there was some research regarding oxylate acid found in muscle tissue of fibro pts?

    sheryl

  5. Dr E says:

    Carrot diet for cancer got its start in the 1930’s and became very popular with the work of Dr. Max Gerson whose most famous patient was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. The Gerson Foundation is still operating under the direction of Dr. Gerson’s daughter.
    What’s interesting is that the nutritionists at the famed Dana-Farber Cancer Institute include one of Gerson’s juice recipes in their online guide to healthful eating for cancer patients

  6. sheryl says:

    Thank you! 🙂

  7. T. Earp says:

    Hi!

    I understand that the retinol type of vit. A is not helpful, especially for certain individuals. I have been avoiding multi’s with that form of A.

    Do you have any comments on that form of A?

    Thank you,
    T.

  8. Dr E says:

    The amount of retinol in a typical multiple vitamin is really quite harmless and I’ve not had any patients who have had difficulty with. Best sources of Vitamin A is, of course, food>carrots, sweet potatoes, etc

  9. Nathan Cohen says:

    I have been eating raw carrots daily for three years, and weekly for 50 years. I also take niacin and vitamin C, garlic tabs, and a B supplement. Otherwise I eat a typical American diet.

    I am on no medications. Last prescription was for traveling to India in 2013. I have never had major surgery as an adult. I have never ever been constipated. My cholesterol is well within acceptable bounds.

    Draw your own conclusions. I am 64.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700
More>>

Recent Health Tips

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

  • Director of IV Therapies Katie McManigal, BSN, ANP

    Most people at some point in their lives have had an intravenous (IV) line. An adept nurse warned you about the tiny pinch of the needle as it was smoothly inserted and taped in place.  Then the  fluid dangling above your head slowly started making its way through a tube and into your body. IVs are all over the place in hospitals. They’re seen in Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!