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Br J Nutr. 1998 Nov;80(5):445-9.

Lutein ester in serum after lutein supplementation in human subjects.

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  • 1Servicio de Nutrición, Clínica Puerta de Hierro, Madrid, Spain.


Lutein, one of the major carotenoids present in serum, is also widely consumed by most populations. For the purpose of testing the potential health benefits of several carotenoids, lutein was supplied as part of an intervention trial to test whether the consumption of these food constituents reduces oxidative damage to human tissue components. Lutein from a natural source (15 mg/d as mixed ester forms) was supplied for 4 months to eighteen non-smoking, apparently healthy volunteers (nine men, nine women) aged 25-45 years. The serum carotenoid profile was analysed at baseline and monthly thereafter. On average, lutein concentrations increased 5-fold after the first month of supplementation (mean 1.34 (range 0.6-3.34) mumol/l). On reviewing the results, in those volunteers whose lutein levels surpassed 1.05 mumol/l (fourteen of seventeen), we tentatively identified lutein monopalmitate along with another unidentified ester (possibly from a monoketocarotenoid) in serum. Lutein levels returned to baseline values and ester forms were not present 3 months after supplementation was discontinued. Their concentrations did not correlate with, and represented less than 3% of, lutein levels achieved in serum. They were observed before development of, and despite the presence of, carotenodermia. To our knowledge, this is the first time xanthophyll esters have been described in human serum. In view of the fact that xanthophyll esters have not been previously reported in serum and chylomicrons, it seems unlikely that these ester forms would be a reflection of the contents of the capsule. They may indicate a 'ceiling effect' on or saturation of the transport capacity for xanthophylls, and may have been re-esterified in vivo because of the unusual dietary conditions. The determination of the physiological importance of this finding will require further investigation, although neither haematological nor biochemical changes were detected.

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