The macular carotenoids lutein (L), zeaxanthin (Z), and mesozeaxanthin (MZ) have been shown to have neuroprotective and visual performance benefits once deposited in retinal tissues. The purpose of this 12-week trial was to determine biweekly the absorption kinetics, efficiency of retinal deposition, and effects on the spatial profile of macular pigment for three levels of L + Z + MZ supplement.
This study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled 12-week trial. Twenty-eight healthy subjects, aged 18–25 yrs participated. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of four daily supplementation groups: placebo (safflower oil; n = 5), 7.44 mg total macular carotenoid (n = 7), 13.13 mg total macular carotenoid (n = 8), and 27.03 (n = 8) mg total macular carotenoid. Ratios of the three carotenoids were virtually identical for the three levels of supplement (83% L, 10% Z, 7% MZ). At baseline and every two weeks thereafter over the 12-week study period, a fasting blood draw was conducted and, via heterochromatic flicker photometry, spatial profiles of macular pigment optical density (MPOD) were determined.
Compared to placebo, serum concentrations of both L and total Z, for each of the supplement levels, were found to increase significantly from baseline after two weeks of daily ingestion (p < 0.001). Likewise, MPOD increased significantly in all treatment groups (p < 0.001) compared to placebo. Serum responses (L, Z, and L + Z) were linearly related to dose (p < 0.001 for all), but not to retinal response. L: Z serum response ratios decreased exponentially with increases in dose (p = 0.008). The ratio of MPOD change: total serum response was found to be highest for the 13.13 mg level of supplement (p = 0.021), followed by 27.03- and 7.44-mg doses. The very center of the spatial profile of MPOD increased in a fashion commensurate with dose level.
Although L serum responses increased with dose, the slope of increase was shallower than for Z. Given the higher levels of L in the supplements, this is suggestive of a compressed response with relatively high doses of L. Although all three doses significantly augmented MPOD, the 13.13 mg/day L + Z supplement level was the most efficient in doing so. The data regarding efficiency may inform recommendations regarding macular carotenoid supplementation for age-related macular degeneration. Lastly (although not statistically significant), the shift toward a more pronounced central peak in the spatial profile of MPOD in all treatment groups suggests that central retinal deposition of Z and MZ was efficient and can be seen after a short period of supplementation, especially with higher (e.g. 27.03 mg) daily doses of macular carotenoids.
ISRCTN trial registration number: ISRCTN54990825.