High Carotenoid Intake Linked with Lower Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Consuming lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids was associated with a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration in a recent prospective cohort study.

Consuming lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids may be associated with a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a prospective cohort study published in the December issue of JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers noted that, “despite strong biological plausibility,” evidence of the relation between AMD risk and lutein/zeaxanthin intake has been inconsistent in past epidemiologic studies and clinical trials. But results of this new prospective cohort study suggest a long-term association between carotenoid intake and reduced risk of advanced AMD.

The new prospective cohort study included 63,443 women and 38,603 men followed up from two studies-the Nurses’ Health Study (from 1984 until May 31, 2010) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (from 1986 until January 31, 2010). Participants were aged 50 years or older and did not suffer from diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diagnosed AMD at baseline. Researchers computed predicted plasma carotenoid score from food intake, determined by repeated food frequency questionnaires at baselines and follow-up.

Upon confirming 1361 incident intermediate AMD cases and 1118 advanced AMD cases, researchers compared extreme quintiles of predicted plasma lutein/zeaxanthin scores and found an advanced AMD risk reduction score of about 40% in both women and men.

When comparing extreme quintiles for or other carotenoids, such as β-cryptoxanthin, β-carotene, and α-carotene, predicted plasma carotenoid scores were associated with a 25% to 30% lower risk of advanced AMD. No associations were found between any carotenoids and intermediate AMD.

“Higher intake of bioavailable lutein/zeaxanthin is associated with a long-term reduced risk of advanced AMD,” concluded researchers. “Given that some other carotenoids are also associated with a lower risk, a public health strategy aimed at increased dietary consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids may reduce the incidence of advanced AMD.”


Read more:

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Fierce Debate over Zeaxanthin Isomers

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplements Can Save the U.S. at Least $7 Billion in Eye-Disease Healthcare Costs


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine


Wu J et al., “Intakes of lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids and age-related macular degeneration during 2 decades of prospective follow-up,” JAMA Ophthalmology, vol. 133, no. 12 (December 2015): 1415–1424