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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011 Oct;24 Suppl 1:147-50. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.607618.

A prospective, randomized, double blind study comparing lutein to placebo for reducing occurrence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity.

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Division of Neonatology, Catholic University of Rome, Italy.


Lutein has been shown to have antioxidant functions in newborns and with zeaxantin selectively taken up into the macula of the eye. We hypothesize that lutein administration may contribute to reducing the incidence of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). This was a single center, double-blind randomized controlled study. Preterm infants with gestational age (GA) ≤ 32 weeks able to tolerate minimal enteral feeding before the seventh day of life (DOL) were enrolled; lutein and zeaxantin plasma concentrations and ROP occurrence and severity were evaluated. Sixty-three newborns were enrolled, 31 in the lutein group and 32 in the placebo group (one died before ROP assessment). The mean GA was 29.9 (± 1.9) weeks and the mean birth weight was 1331 (± 415) grams. There were no differences in the incidence of ROP at any stage between groups. Oxidative injury is probably an additional mechanism of damage of the developing retinal vessels, and it probably plays only a minor role in the pathogenesis of ROP. Supplementation with antioxidant substances might have beneficial effects noticeable only on larger samples of high risk neonates or at very high dosage. Further investigations would be needed to evaluate whether lutein supplementation can influence functional rather than anatomical outcomes in preterm infants.

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