Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Feb;62(2):222-9. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12644. Epub 2014 Jan 15.


Objectives: To examine the association between plasma concentrations of antioxidative micronutrients and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in elderly adults.

Design: Cross-sectional cohort study.

Setting: Austrian Stroke Prevention Study, a population-based cohort study on brain aging.

Participants: Individuals with a mean age of 66 ± 7 (n = 786; 58% female).

Measurements: Concentrations of vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, canthaxanthin, lycopene, α- and γ-tocopherol, α- and β-carotene, and retinol in plasma, advanced oxidation protein products as a measure of oxidative stress in serum, and LTL were measured. Vitamins and carotenoids were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography, advanced oxidation protein products using spectrophotometry, and telomere length using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Multiple linear regression analyses with adjustment for age and sex demonstrated that higher lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations were strongly associated with longer telomere length. The associations were independent of body mass index, maximum oxygen uptake, and vascular risk factors and were not mediated by advanced oxidation protein products content.

Conclusion: This study provides first evidence that higher lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations in plasma are associated with longer LTL in normal elderly persons and suggest a protective role of these vitamins in telomere maintenance.

Keywords: aging; antioxidants; lutein zeaxanthin; oxidative stress; telomere length; vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA / analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Lutein / blood*
  • Lutein / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Stroke / blood
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Xanthophylls / blood*
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Antioxidants
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • DNA
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Lutein