Lutein and zeaxanthin supplied by red/orange foods and fruits are more closely associated with macular pigment optical density than those from green vegetables in Spanish subjects

Nutr Res. 2016 Nov;36(11):1210-1221. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2016.09.007. Epub 2016 Sep 14.


Lutein and zeaxanthin (L+Z) accumulate in the retina. Although vegetables are major contributors to their intake, a stronger association between fruits and macular pigment optical density (MPOD) has been reported. We hypothesized that L+Z intake from fruits would have a stronger association with L+Z status markers (MPOD, serum concentrations) than intake from vegetables or eggs, and that those associations would also differ according to plant foods color. One hundred eight subjects (57 men; age groups, 20-35 and 45-65 years) were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. L+Z intake from fruits, vegetables, and eggs was determined using three 24-hour diet recalls and a country-specific carotenoid database. Vegetables were the major contributors (75%) to L+Z intake, followed by eggs (10%) and fruits (4%). Vegetables supplied 86% and 84% of the LandZ intake, respectively, and fruits supplied 3% and 16%. Green foods supplied 78% and 52% of LandZ, respectively, followed by red/orange (9% and 38%) and white/yellow (14% and 9%). Factorial analysis showed associations in older subjects. The explained variance of the first 2 principal components was 54% considering L+Z intake from fruits, vegetables, and eggs, and 55% considering L+Z intake from plant foods grouped by color. Macular pigment optical density is related to L+Z intake from fruits (0.264, P=.003) and is independent of that from vegetables and eggs. It is related to L+Z intake from red/orange foods (0.320, P=.000) and the serum concentrations to that from green foods (0.222, P=.11). Although vegetables and green foods of plant origin are the major contributors to L+Z intake, red/orange foods and fruits have the strongest relationship to MPOD in study participants (45-65 years of age).

Keywords: Dietary intake; Fruit and vegetables; Lutein; Macular pigment optical density; Zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Eggs / analysis
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lutein / administration & dosage*
  • Lutein / blood
  • Macular Pigment / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Spain
  • Vegetables / chemistry*
  • Young Adult
  • Zeaxanthins / administration & dosage*
  • Zeaxanthins / blood


  • Macular Pigment
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Lutein