Background: The food matrix in which carotenoids are found affects their bioavailability. Lutein and zeaxanthin are abundant in egg yolks and accumulate in the macular region of the retina, where they may affect visual function.
Objective: We sought to determine whether plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations are elevated after dietary supplementation with egg yolk.
Design: Eleven moderately hypercholesterolemic men and women consumed 2 separate baseline diets, which contained 29-33% of energy as total fat, with 20% of energy as either beef tallow or corn oil. These diets were supplemented with cooked chicken egg yolks (1.3 egg yolks/d for an intake of 10.4 MJ). Each subject consumed all 4 diets. Each diet was consumed for 4.5 wk, with a washout period of >/=2 wk between diet phases. At the end of each diet phase, fasting morning plasma samples were collected and stored for carotenoid analysis by HPLC. Commercial chicken egg yolks were analyzed for carotenoids and cholesterol.
Results: Egg yolk supplementation of the beef tallow diet increased plasma lutein by 28% (P < 0.05) and zeaxanthin by 142% (P < 0.001); supplementation of the corn oil diet increased plasma lutein by 50% (P < 0.05) and zeaxanthin by 114% (P < 0.001). Changes in plasma lycopene and beta-carotene were variable, with no consistent trend. Egg yolk supplementation increased plasma LDL-cholesterol concentrations by 8-11% (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Egg yolk is a highly bioavailable source of lutein and zeaxanthin. The benefit of introducing these carotenoids into the diet with egg yolk is counterbalanced by potential LDL-cholesterol elevation from the added dietary cholesterol.