The research, which was published in the journal Osteoporos International, recognised that the correlation was especially marked among women subjects.
The researchers, from Guangzhou, assessed 1,898 women and 933 men aged 50-75 years using high-performance liquid chromatography to analyse individual serum carotenoids, while dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was employed to determine bone mineral densities at whole body, lumbar spine, total hip and femur regions.
They found not only that high-level of alpha-carotene, lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin were associated with increased bone mineral density at most skeletal sites in women, but also that higher alpha-carotene levels were significantly associated with greater bone mineral density in total hip and its sub-regions.
When comparing the lowest and highest quartile of alpha-carotene in women, the percentage differences of mean density values were 2.3% for both total hip and neck, and 2.7% and 2.4% for trochanter and intertrochanter respectively.
In men, by contrast, only high-serum alpha-carotene was significantly associated with increased bone mineral density at all sites except for lumbar spine.
When comparing the lowest quartile in men, the mean densities in the highest quartile of alpha-carotene was 4% higher, though serum lutein and zeaxanthin showed no significant association with bone mineral density in either sex.
Women are at a greater risk of losing bone mass as they have smaller bones compared to men, especially when they reach menopause, according to CheeYen Lau, a nutritionist.
“Based on the results, it is suggested that the increased intake of mixed carotenoid with high-content of alpha-carotene benefits both women and men, especially women who are more prone to bone mass loss,” said Lau, who is employed by ExcelVite, a Malaysian producer of tocotrienols and natural mixed carotenoids.