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J Nutr. 2009 Sep;139(9):1692-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.107748. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Women's Health Initiative diet intervention did not increase macular pigment optical density in an ancillary study of a subsample of the Women's Health Initiative.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


In this study, we examined the impact of long-term (>8 y), low-fat, high-fruit and -vegetable diets on levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula of the retina, as indicated by the OD of macular pigment. Macular pigment OD, measured by heterochromatic flicker photometry, was compared in women aged 60-87 y, who, 7-18 mo earlier (median 12 mo), had been in the dietary modification intervention (n = 158) or comparison (n = 236) groups of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) at the Madison, WI site for a mean of 8.5 y. Women in the intervention group ate more fruits and vegetables (mean +/- SEM) (6.1 +/- 0.2 vs. 4.6 +/- 0.2 servings/d; P < 0.0001) and had higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin from foods and supplements (2.7 +/- 0.2 vs. 2.1 +/- 0.1 mg/d; P = 0.0003) than the comparison group. However, macular pigment density did not differ between the intervention (0.36 +/- 0.02 OD units) and comparison (0.35 +/- 0.01 OD units) groups. It tended to be higher (11%; P = 0.11) in women consuming lutein and zeaxanthin in the highest compared with the lowest quintile (median 6.4 vs. 1.1 mg/d). The increase in fruit and vegetable intake among dietary modification participants of this WHI subsample was not of sufficient magnitude to alter the mean density of retinal carotenoids, given other existing dietary conditions in this sample.

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