Background: Plasma cholesterol is one of the strongest risk factors associated with the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and myocardial infarction. Human studies suggest that elevated plasma β-carotene is associated with reductions in circulating cholesterol and the risk of myocardial infarction. The molecular mechanisms underlying these observations are unknown. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the impact of dietary β-carotene and the activity of β-carotene oxygenase 1 (BCO1), which is the enzyme responsible for the conversion of β-carotene to vitamin A, on circulating cholesterol concentration. Methods: In our preclinical study, we compared the effects of a 10-d intervention with a diet containing 50 mg/kg of β-carotene on plasma cholesterol in 5-wk-old male and female C57 Black 6 wild-type and congenic BCO1-deficient mice. In our clinical study, we aimed to determine whether 5 common small nucleotide polymorphisms located in the BCO1 locus affected serum cholesterol concentrations in a population of young Mexican adults from the Universities of San Luis Potosí and Illinois: A Multidisciplinary Investigation on Genetics, Obesity, and Social-Environment (UP AMIGOS) cohort. Results: Upon β-carotene feeding, Bco1−/− mice accumulated >20-fold greater plasma β-carotene and had ∼30 mg/dL increased circulating total cholesterol (P < 0.01) and non-HDL cholesterol (P < 0.01) than wild-type congenic mice. Our results in the UP AMIGOS cohort show that the rs6564851 allele of BCO1, which has been linked to BCO1 enzymatic activity, was associated with a reduction in 10 mg/dL total cholesterol concentrations (P = 0.009) when adjusted for vitamin A and carotenoid intakes. Non-HDL-cholesterol concentration was also reduced by 10 mg/dL when the data were adjusted for vitamin A and total carotenoid intakes (P = 0.002), or vitamin A and β-carotene intakes (P = 0.002). Conclusions: Overall, our results in mice and young adults show that BCO1 activity impacts circulating cholesterol concentration, linking vitamin A formation with the risk of developing ASCVD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2023-2030
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Genetic variants
  • Micronutrients
  • Nutrition
  • Retinoic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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