Research suggests that taking large amounts of alpha-carotene might keep heart diseases and cancer at bay.

Named after carrots, these carotenoids are forms of vitamin A and play a crucial role in defending cells’ DNA from any attack.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 14 years of follow-up, most people consuming more carotenoids were found healthy overall and had fewer health hazards.

"This study does continue to prove the point there's a lot of things in food -- mainly in fruits and vegetables that are orange or kind of red in color -- that are good for us," said registered dietitian Lona Sandon, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, mango and cantaloupe are rich in alpha-carotene, as are a few dark green foods such as broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnip greens, collards, kale, sprouts, kiwi, spinach and leaf lettuce.

They also fall under the dietary recommendations of the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.

Dr. Chaoyang Li who undertook another study observed 15,000 adults, above 20 years of age, from 1988 to 1994.Over the 14 year period, 3,800 of them had died.

Researchers found that those whose blood had higher alpha-carotene levels tend to live longer and faced a 23 per cent lower risk of dying of a heart attack or cancer. Li's team however agreed more research was required.

“Eating more fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk for premature death.”Sandon agreed, but cautioned against over-interpreting the findings. She noted that alpha-carotene itself might not be the only cause of longer life. The bottom line is that more people should consume alpha-carotene rich fruits and vegetables.