Nutritional biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease: the association between carotenoids, n-3 fatty acids, and dementia severity

J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 Feb;13(1):31-8. doi: 10.3233/jad-2008-13103.


Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants that may protect polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as n-3 fatty acids from oxidation, and are potentially important for Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevention and treatment. Fasting plasma carotenoids were measured in 36 AD subjects and 10 control subjects by HPLC. Correlations between plasma carotenoid levels, red blood cell (RBC) n-3 fatty acids, and dementia severity were examined in AD patients. Moderately severe AD patients (MMSE=16-19) had much lower plasma levels of two major carotenoids: lutein and beta-carotene, compared to mild AD patients (MMSE=24-27) or controls. Among AD patients, variables (lutein, beta-carotene, RBC docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and LDL-cholesterol) were significantly correlated with MMSE. A lower MMSE score was associated with lower lutein, beta-carotene and RBC DHA levels, and a higher LDL-cholesterol level. These variables explained the majority of variation in dementia severity (55% of variance in MMSE). Lutein, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin were positively correlated with RBC DHA in AD patients. The association between higher carotenoids levels and DHA and higher MMSE scores, supports a protective role of both types of nutrients in AD. These findings suggest targeting multiple specific nutrients, lutein, beta-carotene, and DHA in strategies to slow the rate of cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / blood*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood*
  • Fasting
  • Humans
  • Lutein / blood*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • beta Carotene / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • beta Carotene
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Lutein