Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Plasma carotenoids are associated with socioeconomic status in an urban Indigenous population: an observational study

Allison Hodge1*, Joan Cunningham2, Louise Maple-Brown23, Terry Dunbar4 and Kerin O'Dea5

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Epidemiology Centre, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

2 Menzies School of Health Research, Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia

3 Division of Medicine, Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, Australia

4 Faculty of Education, Health and Science and Graduate School of Health Practices. Charles Darwin University, Australia

5 Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-76

Published: 2 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Indigenous Australians experience poorer health than other Australians. Poor diet may contribute to this, and be related to their generally lower socioeconomic status (SES). Even within Indigenous populations, SES may be important. Our aim was to identify factors associated with plasma carotenoids as a marker of fruit and vegetable intake among urban dwelling Indigenous Australians, with a particular focus on SES.

Methods

Cross sectional study in urban dwelling Indigenous Australians participating in the DRUID (Darwin Region Urban Indigenous Diabetes) Study. An SES score, based on education, employment, household size, home ownership and income was computed and plasma carotenoids measured by high performance liquid chromatography in 897 men and women aged 15 - 81 years (mean 36, standard deviation 15). Linear regression analysis was used to determine the relationship between SES and plasma carotenoids, adjusting for demographic, health and lifestyle variables, including frequency of intakes of food groups (fruit, vegetables, takeaway foods, snacks and fruit/vegetable juice).

Results

SES was positively associated with plasma concentrations of lutein/zeaxanthin (p trend <0.001), lycopene (p trend = 0.001), α- and ß-carotene (p trend = 0.019 and 0.026 respectively), after adjusting for age, sex, glucose tolerance status, smoking, alcohol use, hypercholesterolemia, dyslipidemia, self-reported health, waist to hip ratio and body mass index. These associations remained after adjustment for self-reported frequency of intake of fruit, vegetables, takeaway foods and fruit juice, which all showed some association with plasma carotenoids. Even in the highest SES quintile, concentrations of all carotenoids (except lycopene) were lower than the mean concentrations in a non-Indigenous population.

Conclusions

Even within urban Indigenous Australians, higher SES was associated with higher concentrations of plasma carotenoids. Low plasma carotenoids have been linked with poor health outcomes; increasing accessibility of fruit and vegetables, as well as reducing smoking rates could increase concentrations and otherwise improve health, but our results suggest there may be additional factors contributing to lower carotenoid concentrations in Indigenous Australians.