Published on July 10, 2024 by Alison Ingle  
HarperSimmons Nutrition2024

Mary Harper Simmons, a Master of Science in Nutrition student at Samford University, recently presented her research on the consumption of baby carrots and their impact on skin carotenoid levels at NUTRITION 2024, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 29-July 2 in Chicago. 

Simmons' research revealed that consuming baby carrots three times a week significantly increased skin carotenoids in young adults. These phytonutrients were further enhanced when paired with a multivitamin containing the carotenoid beta carotene. 

"Previous studies have demonstrated that skin carotenoid levels can be increased by consuming three times the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables every day for three weeks," said Simmons. "Our findings suggest that a small, simple dietary modification—incorporating baby carrots as a snack—can significantly increase skin carotenoid accumulation." 

Under the supervision of Suresh Mathews, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics in Samford’s School of Public Health, Simmons and her research team studied 60 young adults over a four-week period with various interventions. The randomly assigned groups consumed Granny Smith apple slices (control), a half cup (100 grams) of baby carrots, a multivitamin supplement containing beta carotene, or a combination of baby carrots and the supplement. 

The team utilized a noninvasive research-grade spectroscopy instrument called a VeggieMeter to detect and measure the skin carotenoids of the participants before and after the study. The results showed that skin carotenoid scores increased by 10.8% in the group receiving the baby carrots and 21.6% in the group receiving the carrots and supplement combination. The groups receiving the supplement only and the apple slices did not have any notable change in skin carotenoid levels. 

"I am extremely proud of the research work conducted by Harper and colleagues. She was able to present these findings at Nutrition 2024, the premier scientific meeting in the field of nutrition, and receive widespread media attention for her research," Mathews said. Along with the carotenoid impact, he explained that consuming baby carrots a few times a week “can contribute to overall health and lower the risk for chronic diseases." 

The fact that the group receiving only the supplement did not experience increased skin carotenoid levels suggests differences in absorption between food and supplements. Simmons intends to further study the mechanism behind these findings and explore the effects of other carotenoid-rich foods, such as sweet potatoes or green leafy vegetables. 

A committee of industry experts selected Simmons to present her study at this year’s conference. Numerous media outlets including Fox News, CNN and BBC have featured Simmons’ study, highlighting the research being done in Samford’s School of Public Health. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.