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.