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Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Dec;74(6):796-802.

Relation between dietary intake, serum concentrations, and retinal concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in adults in a Midwest population.

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  • 1Department of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA.



Information on concentrations of retinal carotenoids (macular pigment, or MP) is of particular interest because MP protects against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States.


This study was designed to evaluate the relation between dietary intake, blood concentrations, and retinal concentrations of carotenoids in a large group of volunteers.


Two hundred eighty volunteers in the Indianapolis area completed health and diet questionnaires, donated a blood sample, and participated in MP density assessment to determine retinal carotenoid status. Dietary intake was assessed by food-frequency questionnaire. Serum concentrations of lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene were measured by HPLC. MP optical density (MPOD) was determined psychophysically with a 460-nm, 1 degrees test stimulus.


Average MPOD was 0.21 +/- 0.13. Average intakes of lutein + zeaxanthin and beta-carotene were 1101 +/- 838 and 2935 +/- 2698 microg/d, respectively. Although several key dietary intake variables (eg, lutein + zeaxanthin and beta-carotene) differed by sex, no significant sex differences were found in either serum concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin or MPOD. Serum beta-carotene concentrations were significantly higher in women than in men. Serum lutein + zeaxanthin and dietary intake of lutein + zeaxanthin were significantly correlated and significantly related to variations in MPOD (r = 0.21, P < 0.001, and r = 0.25, P < 0.001, respectively).


Retinal carotenoids can be measured in epidemiologic studies. In this study, MPOD was associated with lutein + zeaxanthin in the diet and the serum. Retinal concentrations, however, were influenced by other factors as well. To understand the effect of dietary lutein + zeaxanthin intake on the retina and risk of age-related eye disease, future studies should include measures of macular concentrations of these pigments.

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