Xanthophylls in commercial egg yolks: quantification and identification by HPLC and LC-(APCI)MS using a C30 phase

J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Mar 22;54(6):2267-73. doi: 10.1021/jf053204d.


The xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin have attracted a lot of interest since it was presumed that an increased nutritional uptake may prevent adult macula degeneration (AMD). Although egg yolks serve as an important dietary source of lutein and zeaxanthin, data on xanthophyll concentrations in commercial egg yolks are not available. Thus, an high-performance liquid chromatography-diode array detector (HPLC-DAD) method was developed allowing for simultaneous separation of eight xanthophylls used to fortify poultry feed. Peak identification was carried out by liquid chromatography-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry [LC-(APCI)MS]. Egg yolks of four types of husbandry (seven batches each) were examined. Lutein and zeaxanthin were the predominant xanthophylls in egg yolks produced in accordance with ecological husbandry (class 0) because the concentrations of these xanthophylls ranged from 1274 to 2478 microg/100 g and from 775 to 1288 microg/100 g, respectively. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) proved that both mean lutein and mean zeaxanthin concentrations of eggs from class 0 were statistically discriminable from mean lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations from eggs of all other classes (P < 0.01). Mean concentrations of synthetic xanthophylls in eggs of classes 1 (free range), 2 (barn), and 3 (cage) were as follows: canthaxanthin, 707 +/- 284 microg/100 g; beta-apo-8'-carotenoic acid ethyl ester, 639 +/- 391 microg/100 g; and citranaxanthin, 560 +/- 231 microg/100 g. Experiments with boiled eggs proved that beta-apo-8'-carotenoic acid ethyl ester was the xanthophyll with the highest stability, whereas lutein was degraded to the largest extent (loss of 19%). Detailed knowledge about the xanthophyll amounts in eggs is indispensable to calculate the human uptake.

MeSH terms

  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Egg Yolk / chemistry*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Solutions
  • Xanthophylls / analysis*


  • Solutions
  • Xanthophylls