Lutein and zeaxanthin in the eyes, serum and diet of human subjects

Exp Eye Res. 2000 Sep;71(3):239-45. doi: 10.1006/exer.2000.0870.


Inverse associations have been reported between the incidence of advanced, neovascular, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the combined lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) intake in the diet, and L and Z concentration in the blood serum. We suggest that persons with high levels of L and Z in either the diet or serum would probably have, in addition, relatively high densities of these carotenoids in the macula, the so-called 'macular pigment'. Several lines of evidence point to a potential protective effect by the macular pigment against AMD. In this study we examined the relationship between dietary intake of L and Z using a food frequency questionnaire; concentration of L and Z in the serum, determined by high-performance liquid chromatography, and macular pigment optical density, obtained by flicker photometry. Nineteen subjects participated. We also analysed the serum and retinas, as autopsy samples, from 23 tissue donors in order to obtain the concentration of L and Z in these tissues. The results reveal positive, though weak, associations between dietary intake of L and Z and serum concentration of L and Z, and between serum concentration of L and Z and macular pigment density. We estimate that approximately half of the variability in the subjects' serum concentration of L and Z can be explained by their dietary intake of L and Z, and about one third of the variability in their macular pigment density can be attributed to their serum concentration of L and Z. These results, together with the reported associations between risk of AMD and dietary and serum L and Z, support the hypothesis that low concentrations of macular pigment may be associated with an increased risk of AMD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lutein / analysis*
  • Lutein / blood
  • Macular Degeneration / blood
  • Macular Degeneration / diet therapy
  • Macular Degeneration / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photometry
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / analysis
  • beta Carotene / blood


  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • Lutein