Role of macular xanthophylls in prevention of common neovascular retinopathies: retinopathy of prematurity and diabetic retinopathy

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015 Apr 15:572:40-48. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) are important causes of blindness among children and working-age adults, respectively. The development of both diseases involves retinal microvascular degeneration, vessel loss and consequent hypoxic and inflammatory pathologic retinal neovascularization. Mechanistic studies have shown that oxidative stress and subsequent derangement of cell signaling are important factors in disease progression. In eye and vision research, role of the dietary xanthophyll carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, has been more extensively studied in adult onset macular degeneration than these other retinopathies. These carotenoids also may decrease severity of ROP in preterm infants and of DR in working-age adults. A randomized controlled clinical trial of carotenoid supplementation in preterm infants indicated that lutein has functional effects in the neonatal eye and is anti-inflammatory. Three multicenter clinical trials all showed a trend of decreased ROP severity in the lutein supplemented group. Prospective studies on patients with non-proliferative DR indicate serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are significantly lower in these patients compared to normal subjects. The present review describes recent advances in lutein and zeaxanthin modulation of oxidative stress and inflammation related to ROP and DR and discusses potential roles of lutein/zeaxanthin in preventing or lessening the risks of disease initiation or progression.

Keywords: Diabetes; Lutein; Oxidative stress; Prematurity; Prevention; Retina; Retinopathy; Xanthophylls; Zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Macula Lutea / metabolism*
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / etiology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / metabolism
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / prevention & control*
  • Xanthophylls / metabolism*
  • Zeaxanthins / metabolism


  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins