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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Jun 6;52(7):3934-42. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-5898.

Nutritional manipulation of primate retinas, V: effects of lutein, zeaxanthin, and n-3 fatty acids on retinal sensitivity to blue-light-induced damage.

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Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Salus University, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, USA.



Blue-light photooxidative damage has been implicated in the etiology of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The macular pigment xanthophylls lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) and n-3 fatty acids may reduce this damage and lower the risk of AMD. This study investigated the effects of the lifelong absence of xanthophylls followed by L or Z supplementation, combined with the effects of n-3 fatty acid deficiency, on acute blue-light photochemical damage.


Subjects included eight rhesus monkeys with no lifelong intake of xanthophylls and no detectable macular pigment. Of these, four had low n-3 fatty acid intake and four had adequate intakes. Control subjects had typical L, Z, and n-3 fatty acid intake. Retinas received 150-μm-diameter exposures of low-power 476-nm laser light at 0.5 mm (∼2°) eccentricity, which is adjacent to the macular pigment peak, and parafoveally at 1.5 mm (∼6°). Exposures of xanthophyll-free animals were repeated after supplementation with pure L or Z for 22 to 28 weeks. Ophthalmoscopically visible lesion areas were plotted as a function of exposure energy, with greater slopes of the regression lines indicating greater sensitivity to damage.


In control animals, the fovea was less sensitive to blue-light-induced damage than the parafovea. Foveal protection was absent in xanthophyll-free animals but was evident after supplementation. In the parafovea, animals low in n-3 fatty acids showed greater sensitivity to damage than animals with adequate levels.


After long-term xanthophyll deficiency, L or Z supplementation protected the fovea from blue light-induced damage, whereas adequate n-3 fatty acid levels reduced the damage in the parafovea.

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