Effects of Lutein/Zeaxanthin Supplementation on the Cognitive Function of Community Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Front Aging Neurosci. 2017 Aug 3:9:254. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00254. eCollection 2017.


Background: High levels of xanthophyll carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) in the central nervous system have been previously correlated with improved cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults. In this study, we tested the effects of supplementing L and Z on older men and women with a range of baseline cognitive abilities. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not supplementation with L+Z could improve cognitive function in community-dwelling, older adults. Design: Double-masked, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. A total of 62 older adults were randomized into groups receiving either 12 mg L+Z or a visually identical placebo. Data from 51 participants (M = 73.7 years) were available for analysis. Retinal L+Z levels (macular pigment optical density, MPOD) were measured psychophysically using heterochromatic flicker photometry as a biomarker of cortical L+Z levels. Cognitive function was measured using the CNS Vital Signs computerized test platform. Results: Participants receiving the active L+Z supplement had statistically significant increases in MPOD (p < 0.03) and improvements in complex attention (p < 0.02) and cognitive flexibility domains (p < 0.04), relative to participants taking the placebo. A trend was also seen for the executive function domain (p = 0.073). In male participants only, supplementation yielded improved composite memory (p = 0.04). Conclusions: Supplementation with L+Z improved cognitive function in community-dwelling, older men and women.

Keywords: Xanthophylls; attention; cognition; cognitive flexibility; older adults.