Previous studies indicate that regular consumption of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk for age-related diseases. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether the often-reported age-related decrease of plasma antioxidants in man depends on differences in dietary intake or on other age- and gender-related factors. In this observational case-control study, thirty-nine community-dwelling healthy subjects aged 65 years and older consuming high intakes of fruits and vegetables daily (HI) and forty-eight healthy subjects aged 65 and older consuming low intakes of fruit and vegetables daily (LI) were enrolled. Plasma levels of retinol, tocopherols, carotenoids and malondialdehyde (MDA) as well as content of protein carbonyls in Ig G were measured. Plasma levels of retinol, tocopherols and carotenoids were significantly higher in group HI than in group LI subjects independent of age and gender. MDA levels were inversely correlated with vitamin A and α-carotene. Protein carbonyls were inversely correlated with γ-tocopherol. In the elderly, a higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with an improved antioxidant status in comparison to subjects consuming diets poor in fruits and vegetables. Modification of nutritional habits among other lifestyle changes should be encouraged to lower prevalence of disease risk factors in later life. © The Authors 2005.