Vitamin E and carotenoid pigments are important nutrients for the maintenance of health and protection of tissues against free radical damage. They also play a potential role in disease-risk-prediction and -protection, but little is known about their physiological and sociodemographic correlates and determinants, especially in a West African context. As part of a study of reproductive health in rural Gambian women, blood samples were obtained from 1286 women aged 15 to 54 years, living in the Farafenni area of The Gambia. Measurement of two forms of vitamin E and six carotenoids in plasma was performed by high performance liquid chromatography. All eight components, but especially the carotenoids: lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene, exhibited a major seasonal variation, with maximum levels between May and July, corresponding to the end of the "mango" season and the beginning of the "rainy" season. Only the tocopherols varied significantly (increasing) with age. Several unexpected ethnic group differences were observed, and canthaxanthin was present at lower concentrations in women with manual occupations, compared to those with non-manual occupations. There were also significant differences associated with pregnancy and the postpartum period, especially for the tocopherols, but fewer differences associated with marital status. The observed patterns confirm that there are important seasonal, physiological, possibly genetic, and sociodemographic determinants of these nutrients in blood plasma, which may have significance for health and longevity.