Ann Nutr Metab. 1995 ; 39(6): 334-9.
Selected vitamins and trace elements in blood of vegetarians.
Research Institute of Nutrition, Bratislava, Slovakia.
Selected vitamin (A, C, E, beta-carotene) and trace element (selenium, zinc, copper) levels were estimated in the blood of 67 vegetarian nonsmokers aged 34-60 years. The average period of lacto- or lacto-ovovegetarianism was 6.2 years. The results were compared with those of 75 nonvegetarians of the same age and living in the same region. Vegetarians had significantly higher plasma levels of essential antioxidants: vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. A significantly higher molar ratio vitamin E/cholesterol indicates a more effective protection especially of low-density lipoproteins against peroxidation. Oxidation of low-density lipoproteins represents one of the key factors in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. The molar ratio vitamin E/total lipids was significantly higher in plasma of vegetarians, demonstrating a more effective protection of polyunsaturated fatty acids against peroxidation. Vegetarians had significantly higher plasma levels of selenium and similar levels of zinc and copper when compared to nonvegetarians. These trace elements are important for the activity of antioxidant enzymes. The results document a beneficial effect of vegetarian nutritional habits on antioxidative parameters and thus on the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and cancer risk. Reactive products of oxygen metabolism and subsequent toxic products of lipid peroxidation play an important role in the etiology of these diseases.