British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Bioavailability and nutritional effects of carotenoids from organically and conventionally produced carrots in healthy men

Berenike A. Strackea1, Corinna E. Rüfera1, Achim Buba1, Karlis Brivibaa1, Stephanie Seiferta1, Clemens Kunza2 and Bernhard Watzla1 c1

a1 Institute of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition, Max Rubner-Institut, Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food, Haid- und Neu-straße 9, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany

a2 Institute of Nutritional Sciences, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Wilhelmstraße 20, 35392 Giessen, Germany


It has been hypothesised that organically grown vegetables are healthier than conventionally produced ones due to a higher content of phytochemicals. However, few data from controlled human studies exist. The aim of the present study was to compare the carotenoid content and antioxidant capacity of organically and conventionally produced carrots under defined conditions. Furthermore, a human intervention study was conducted to compare bioavailability, plasma antioxidant capacity, endogenous DNA strand breaks and immune parameters in healthy men ingesting carrots from different agricultural systems. Thirty-six volunteers consumed either organically or conventionally produced blanched carrots (200 g/d; 2 weeks) or no carrots in a double-blind, randomised intervention study. No statistically significant differences were observed in the total carotenoid contents (121 (sd 7) μg/g organic v. 116 (sd 13) μg/g conventional) and the antioxidant capacities (0·43 (sd 0·08) μmol Trolox equivalents/g organic v. 0·32 (sd 0·07) μmol Trolox equivalents/g conventional) of the carrots administered to the volunteers. Intake of organically or conventionally produced carrots significantly increased (P < 0·001) plasma α- and β-carotene concentrations in both intervention groups without differences in plasma carotenoid concentrations. Consumption of carrots did not lead to significant changes in the plasma antioxidant status, endogenous DNA strand breaks and parameters of the immune system in all groups. Therefore, these results indicate that the agricultural system has neither an effect on the carotenoid content, the antioxidant capacity of carrots, nor on the bioavailability of carotenoids and on antioxidant, antigenotoxic and immunological effects as assessed in a human intervention study.

(Received June 04 2008)

(Revised September 11 2008)

(Accepted September 12 2008)

(Online publication November 20 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Bernhard Watzl, fax +49 721 6625 404, email


Abbreviations: ABTS, 2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) diammonium salt; FRAP, ferric-reducing ability of plasma; NK, natural killer; ORAC, oxygen radical absorbance capacity; PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear cells; TEAC, Trolox equivalent antioxidative capacity