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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jan;58(1):90-7.

A comparison of lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in formula and human milk samples from Northern Ireland mothers.

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  • 1Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, University of Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland.



Two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the retinal pigment epithelium of the eye where they are believed to protect it against oxidative and light damage. The amounts of these carotenoids consumed by premature infants are not known.


The objective of the investigation was to measure these carotenoids in human and formulae milks.


In all, 28 human milk samples were obtained at various times between days 1 and 41 of lactation from 13 mothers. Six formula milks commonly used in hospitals were also analysed.


Mothers who provided the milk samples had infants in the neonatal ward at the Royal Maternity Hospital, Belfast.


Median lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in human milk were 4.79 (range 0.42-9.98) nmol/g fat and 0.55 (0.00-1.70) nmol/g fat, respectively. Five of the six formula milks also contained lutein and zeaxanthin with concentrations that varied over a wide range (0.7-9.7 and 0.1-1.2 nmol/g fat, respectively).


Carotenoid concentrations usually decreased with the duration of lactation. Some formula milks that were specially formulated for premature infants contained high concentrations of the lutein and zeaxanthin and the source may be egg yolk.


These studies were supported by the University of Ulster and the Northern Ireland Mother and Baby Appeal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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