A low density of macular pigment may represent a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by permitting greater blue light damage. This study was carried out to determine the effects on macular pigment optical density of dietary supplementation with lutein, one of the pigment constituents. Two subjects consumed lutein esters, equivalent to 30 mg of free lutein per day, for a period of 140 days. Macular pigment optical density was determined by heterochromatic flicker photometry before, during, and after the supplementation period. Serum lutein concentration was also obtained through the analysis of blood samples by high-performance liquid chromatography. Twenty to 40 days after the subjects commenced taking the lutein supplement, their macular pigment optical density began to increase uniformly at an average rate of 1.13+/-0.12 milliabsorbance units/day. During this same period, the serum concentration of lutein increased roughly tenfold, approaching a steady state plateau. The optical density curve eventually levelled off 40 to 50 days after the subjects discontinued the supplement. During the same 40 to 50 days, the serum concentration returned to baseline. Thereafter, little or no decrease in optical density was observed. The mean increases in the macular pigment optical density were 39% and 21% in the eyes of the two subjects respectively. In conclusion, the modest period of supplementation has been estimated to have produced in the subjects a 30 to 40% reduction in blue light reaching the photoreceptors, Bruch's membrane, and the retinal pigment epithelium, the vulnerable tissues affected by AMD.