Macular pigment and risk for age-related macular degeneration in subjects from a Northern European population

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2001 Feb;42(2):439-46.


Purpose: Age and advanced disease in the fellow eye are the two most important risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In this study, the authors investigated the relationship between these variables and the optical density of macular pigment (MP) in a group of subjects from a northern European population.

Methods: The optical density of MP was measured psychophysically in 46 subjects ranging in age from 21 to 81 years with healthy maculae and in 9 healthy eyes known to be at high-risk of AMD because of advanced disease in the fellow eye. Each eye in the latter group was matched with a control eye on the basis of variables believed to be associated with the optical density of MP (iris color, gender, smoking habits, age, and lens density).

Results: There was an age-related decline in the optical density of macular pigment among volunteers with no ocular disease (right eye: r(2) = 0.29, P = 0.0006; left eye: r(2) = 0.29, P < 0.0001). Healthy eyes predisposed to AMD had significantly less MP than healthy eyes at no such risk (Wilcoxon's signed rank test: P = 0.015).

Conclusions: The two most important risk factors for AMD are associated with a relative absence of MP. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that supplemental lutein and zeaxanthin may delay, avert, or modify the course of this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Eye Color
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lutein / administration & dosage
  • Macula Lutea / metabolism*
  • Macular Degeneration / ethnology
  • Macular Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Macular Degeneration / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Pigments / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives


  • Retinal Pigments
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • Lutein