Effect of carotenoid supplementation on plasma carotenoids, inflammation and visual development in preterm infants

J Perinatol. 2012 Jun;32(6):418-24. doi: 10.1038/jp.2011.87. Epub 2011 Jul 14.


Objective: Dietary carotenoids (lutein, lycopene and β-carotene) may be important in preventing or ameliorating prematurity complications. Little is known about carotenoid status or effects of supplementation.

Study design: This randomized controlled multicenter trial compared plasma carotenoid levels among preterm infants (n=203, <33 weeks gestational age) fed diets with and without added lutein, lycopene and β-carotene with human milk (HM)-fed term infants. We assessed safety and health.

Result: Plasma carotenoid levels were higher in the supplemented group at all time points (P<0.0001) and were similar to those of term HM-fed infants. Supplemented infants had lower plasma C-reactive protein (P<0.001). Plasma lutein levels correlated with the full field electroretinogram-saturated response amplitude in rod photoreceptors (r=0.361, P=0.05). The supplemented group also showed greater rod photoreceptor sensitivity (least squares means 6.1 vs 4.1; P<0.05).

Conclusion: Carotenoid supplementation for preterm infants raises plasma concentrations to those observed in HM-fed term infants. Carotenoid supplementation may decrease inflammation. Our results point to protective effects of lutein on preterm retina health and maturation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Carotenoids / adverse effects
  • Carotenoids / blood
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Retina / drug effects*
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects*


  • Carotenoids
  • C-Reactive Protein