Dexter Morris, M.D. (University of North Carolina), says that phytochemicals keep your heart healthy. "The 60-80 age group has a much greater risk of heart disease than younger people do. If your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, you can reduce risk," according to Morris. In a study begun in 1973, researchers kept track of 1883 men ages 35-59 who had high cholesterol levels. Over the next 20 years, the men who had the highest levels of carotenoids in their blood had 60% fewer heart attacks and deaths (Morris 2001).
High vitamin A and beta-carotene serum levels have been reported to reduce fibrinogen levels in humans and animals (Green 1997). Animals fed a vitamin A-deficient diet have an impaired ability to break down fibrinogen, but when injected with vitamin A, they produce tissue plasminogen activators that break down fibrinogen, reducing the risk of clot formation.
Vitamin A is beneficial to individuals with Syndrome X and diabetes. A study involving 52 patients indicated that vitamin A enhanced insulin-mediated glucose disposal (Facchini et al. 1996a). Since beta-carotene must be converted in the body to vitamin A, an adaptation some individuals lack, diabetics may do better using vitamin A rather than beta-carotene.
It should be noted that the protection of beta-carotene is not absolute. In fact, if the individual is consuming greater amounts of alcohol, beta-carotene may actually increase the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage (Leppala et al. 2000). A blend of phytoextracts (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) appears to offer more comprehensive cardiac protection than using beta-carotene.