New research on raw foods.

Despite the interest in raw foods diets, little research has been


conducted about them. A small German study examined blood levels of

carotenoids in 198 strict raw foods diet followers. Carotenoids are

found in fruits and vegetables and include substances associated with a

lower risk of diseases like cancer, such as beta-carotene,

alpha-carotene, and lycopene. Study subjects ate close to 95 percent by

weight of their foods as raw foods and had followed this diet for at

least two years.

Because of their high fruit and vegetable intake, people eating a

raw foods diet would be expected to have high levels of these

carotenoids in their blood. Most study subjects, especially those eating

more than 3 1/2 pounds of fruits and vegetables per day, had blood

beta-carotene levels in the normal range. Surprisingly, however, blood

lycopene levels were below the reference values in more than

three-quarters of study subjects. This may be because the lycopene from

raw foods was not well-absorbed. Cooking foods like tomatoes, which are

a good source of lycopene, has been shown to increase lycopene

absorption. Other factors that may have affected carotenoid absorption

were the amount of fat in the subjects’ diets and whether the high

fat foods were eaten at the same meal as foods high in carotenoids.

Dietary fat provided an average of 30 percent of calories; the main

dietary sources of fat were nuts, seeds, and avocados. Dietary fats have

been shown to increase the amount of carotenoids that are absorbed in a

meal. Those subjects who ate the lowest amount of fat and oil also had

the lowest blood levels of carotenoids. For those eating a raw foods

diet to increase carotenoid absorption, especially absorption of the

carotenoid lycopene, fat intake may need to be increased. Additionally,

fat sources should be at the same meal as good sources of lycopene.

Garcia AL, Koebnick C, Dagnelie PC, et al. 2008. Long-term strict

raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma beta-carotene and low

plasma lycopene concentrations in Germans. Br J Nutr 99:1293-1300.

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, FADA

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