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Concept: Xanthophyll


Speed of processing is a particularly important characteristic of the visual system. Often a behavioral reaction to a visual stimulus must be faster than the conscious perception of that stimulus, as is the case with many sports (e.g., baseball). Visual psychophysics provides a relatively simple and precise means of measuring visual processing speed called the temporal contrast sensitivity function (tCSF). Past study has shown that macular pigment (a collection of xanthophylls, lutein (L), meso-zeaxanthin (MZ) and zeaxanthin (Z), found in the retina) optical density (MPOD) is positively correlated with the tCSF. In this study, we found similar correlations when testing 102 young healthy subjects. As a follow-up, we randomized 69 subjects to receive a placebo (n=15) or one of two L and Z supplements (n=54). MPOD and tCSF were measured psychophysically at baseline and 4months. Neither MPOD nor tCSF changed for the placebo condition, but both improved significantly as a result of supplementation. These results show that an intervention with L and Z can increase processing speed even in young healthy subjects.

Concepts: Retina, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Visual system, Carotenoid, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Xanthophyll


The dramatic rise in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers over the past decade has raised concerns about potentially deleterious health effects of increased “screen time” (ST) and associated short-wavelength (blue) light exposure. We determined baseline associations and effects of 6 months' supplementation with the macular carotenoids (MC) lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin on the blue-absorbing macular pigment (MP) and measures of sleep quality, visual performance, and physical indicators of excessive ST. Forty-eight healthy young adults with at least 6 h of daily near-field ST exposure participated in this placebo-controlled trial. Visual performance measures included contrast sensitivity, critical flicker fusion, disability glare, and photostress recovery. Physical indicators of excessive screen time and sleep quality were assessed via questionnaire. MP optical density (MPOD) was assessed via heterochromatic flicker photometry. At baseline, MPOD was correlated significantly with all visual performance measures (p < 0.05 for all). MC supplementation (24 mg daily) yielded significant improvement in MPOD, overall sleep quality, headache frequency, eye strain, eye fatigue, and all visual performance measures, versus placebo (p < 0.05 for all). Increased MPOD significantly improves visual performance and, in turn, improves several undesirable physical outcomes associated with excessive ST. The improvement in sleep quality was not directly related to increases in MPOD, and may be due to systemic reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Carotenoid, Laptop, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Xanthophyll, Shutter speed


Purpose. A large body of research has linked macular lutein and zeaxanthin to reduced risk of degenerative eye disease. The earliest published hypothesis for the role of the pigments was not based on chronic protection but immediate function. Recent data on macular pigment (MP) have shown that screening the foveal cones from short-wave light does, in fact, result in improvements in photostress recovery (PR), glare disability (GD) and chromatic contrast (CC). This study examined those relations on a larger sample. Methods. 150 young healthy subjects were assessed. Plasma samples were obtained from 100 subjects for HPLC quantification of serum xanthophylls. MP density was measured using customized heterochromatic flicker photometery. GD, PR and CC were measured in Maxwellian view using a broadband xenon light source. GD was measured by increasing the intensity of an annulus until it veiled a central target. PR was measured as the time necessary to regain sight of a central target after a 5 second exposure to an intense bleaching light. CC was measured as the amount of light necessary in a 460 nm background to lose sight of a central target. Results. MP density was significantly related to serum lutein and zeaxanthin combined (r = 0.31, p = 0.002), GD (r = 0.24, p = 0.0015), PR (r = -0.18, p = 0.01), and CC (r = 0.46, p = 0.00005). Conclusions. These results confirm earlier reports of a significant relation between variation in macular pigment optical density and immediate effects on visual function. As with many species, intra-ocular yellow filters in humans appear to improve many aspects of the visual stimulus.

Concepts: Optics, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Carotenoid, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Lutein, Xanthophyll


We assessed the intake and major dietary sources of lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene (non-provitamin A carotenoids) in Spain using food consumption data from the Spanish National Dietary Intake Survey (2009-2010). Three-day diaries and one 24-h recall were used to collect dietary data and a software application that includes HPLC data was used. Average intake of those carotenoids was 4290.8 μg/d (67.1% total carotenoid intake), mainly from vegetables (3414.0 μg/d), followed by fruits (393.5 μg/d), oils/fats (204.0 μg/d) and eggs/egg products (170.0 μg/d). Main sources of lutein and zeaxanthin were vegetables (62.9% total diet, 1235.2 μg/person/d). Lycopene intake was 3055.6 μg/d (71.2% of non-provitamin A carotenoids), mainly from tomato and by-products (86.3%) and watermelon. Red- and orange-colored fruits and vegetables were the major contributors of non-provitamin carotenoids (3219.0 μg/person/d). Balanced diets should favor fruits and vegetables over other dietary sources (oils, eggs, processed foods) that contain components to be consumed with moderation.

Concepts: Nutrition, Carotenoid, Carotenoids, Tomato, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Xanthophyll, Lycopene


Emerging evidence indicates that carotenoids may have particular roles in infant nutrition and development, yet data on the profile and bioavailability of carotenoids from human milk remain sparse. Milk was longitudinally collected at 2, 4, 13, and 26 weeks postpartum from twenty mothers each in China, Mexico, and the USA in the Global Exploration of Human Milk Study (n = 60 donors, n = 240 samples). Maternal and neonatal plasma was analyzed for carotenoids from the USA cohort at 4 weeks postpartum. Carotenoids were analyzed by HPLC and total lipids by Creamatocrit. Across all countries and lactation stages, the top four carotenoids were lutein (median 114.4 nmol/L), β-carotene (49.4 nmol/L), β-cryptoxanthin (33.8 nmol/L), and lycopene (33.7 nmol/L). Non-provitamin A carotenoids (nmol/L) and total lipids (g/L) decreased (p<0.05) with increasing lactation stage, except the provitamin A carotenoids α- and β-cryptoxanthin and β-carotene did not significantly change (p>0.05) with lactation stage. Total carotenoid content and lutein content were greatest from China, yet lycopene was lowest from China (p<0.0001). Lutein, β-cryptoxanthin, and β-carotene, and lycopene concentrations in milk were significantly correlated to maternal plasma and neonatal plasma concentrations (p<0.05), with the exception that lycopene was not significantly associated between human milk and neonatal plasma (p>0.3). This enhanced understanding of neonatal exposure to carotenoids during development may help guide dietary recommendations and design of human milk mimetics.

Concepts: Infant, Antioxidant, United States, Milk, Breastfeeding, Carotenoid, Carotenoids, Xanthophyll


It is well known that the carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) improve eye health and an accumulating evidence base suggests cognitive benefits as well. The present study investigated underlying neural mechanisms using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It was hypothesized that lower L and Z concentrations would be associated with neurobiological inefficiency (i.e., increased activation) during cognitive performance.

Concepts: Brain, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Neuroscience, Magnetic resonance imaging, Carotenoid, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Xanthophyll


Current evidence suggests lutein and its isomers play important roles in ocular development in utero and throughout the life span, in vision performance in young and later adulthood, and in lowering risk for the development of common age-related eye diseases in older age. These xanthophyll (oxygen-containing) carotenoids are found in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and they are present in especially high concentrations in leafy green vegetables. Additionally, egg yolks and human milk appear to be bioavailable sources. The prevalence of lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin in supplements is increasing. Setting optimal and safe ranges of intake requires additional research, particularly in pregnant and lactating women. Accumulating evidence about variable interindividual response to dietary intake of these carotenoids, based on genetic or metabolic influences, suggests that there may be subgroups that benefit from higher levels of intake and/or alternate strategies to improve lutein and zeaxanthin status.

Concepts: Disease, Carotenoid, Vegetable, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Leaf, Xanthophyll, Leaf vegetable


Despite strong biological plausibility, evidence from epidemiologic studies and clinical trials on the relations between intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been inconsistent. The roles of other carotenoids are less thoroughly investigated.

Concepts: Epidemiology, The Canon of Medicine, Carotenoid, Carotenoids, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Lutein, Xanthophyll


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin on macular pigment optical density (MPOD) in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) among patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and healthy subjects. Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Cochrane Library databases was searched through May 2016. Meta-analysis was conducted to obtain adjusted weighted mean differences (WMD) for intervention-versus-placebo group about the change of MPOD between baseline and terminal point. Pearson correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between the changes in MPOD and blood xanthophyll carotenoids or baseline MPOD levels. Twenty RCTs involving 938 AMD patients and 826 healthy subjects were identified. Xanthophyll carotenoids supplementation was associated with significant increase in MPOD in AMD patients (WMD, 0.07; 95% CI, 0.03 to 0.11) and healthy subjects (WMD, 0.09; 95% CI, 0.05 to 0.14). Stratified analysis showed a greater increase in MPOD among trials supplemented and combined with meso-zeaxanthin. Additionally, the changes in MPOD were related with baseline MPOD levels (rAMD = -0.43, p = 0.06; rhealthy subjects = -0.71, p < 0.001) and blood xanthophyll carotenoids concentration (rAMD = 0.40, p = 0.07; rhealthy subjects = 0.33, p = 0.05). This meta-analysis revealed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin supplementation improved MPOD both in AMD patients and healthy subjects with a dose-response relationship.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Evidence-based medicine, Carotenoid, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Lutein, Xanthophyll


Gari, a fermented and dried semolina made from cassava, is one of the most common foods in West Africa. Recently introduced biofortified yellow cassava containing provitamin A carotenoids could help tackle vitamin A deficiency prevalent in those areas. However there are concerns because of the low retention of carotenoids during gari processing compared to other processes (e.g. boiling). The aim of the study was to assess the levels of true retention in trans-β-carotene during gari processing and investigate the causes of low retention. Influence of processing step, processor (3 commercial processors) and variety (TMS 01/1371; 01/1368 and 01/1412) were assessed. It was shown that low true retention (46% on average) during gari processing may be explained by not only chemical losses (i.e. due to roasting temperature) but also by physical losses (i.e. due to leaching of carotenoids in discarded liquids): true retention in the liquid lost from grating negatively correlated with true retention retained in the mash (R = -0.914). Moreover, true retention followed the same pattern as lost water at the different processing steps (i.e. for the commercial processors). Variety had a significant influence on true retention, carotenoid content, and trans-cis isomerisation but the processor type had little effect. It is the first time that the importance of physical carotenoid losses was demonstrated during processing of biofortified crops.

Concepts: Food, Carotenoid, Liquid, Retinol, Vitamin A, Xanthophyll, Lycopene, Cryptoxanthin