The role of lutein in brain health and function


  • Samanta Maci et al.


Lutein, Macular pigment optical density, Brain, Cognition


Lutein selectively accumulates in the macula lutea and is a key component of the macular pigment. Recent research has indicated that lutein is also the predominant carotenoid in both the adult and the infant brain, and studies conducted in primates and humans have shown that lutein concentration in the retina is related to its concentrations in specific regions of the brain. A carotenoid-rich diet and high plasma levels of lutein are positively associated with cognitive status or function in healthy subjects, those with mild cognitive impairment, and subjects with Alzheimer’s disease. Current research indicates that macular pigment optical density, a measure of dietary lutein (and zeaxanthin) deposited in the macula lutea, is positively associated with cognitive function. Additionally, interventional studies provide support that supplementation with lutein and/or zeaxanthin may enhance cognitive function and help maintain cognitive health. The beneficial effect of lutein is most likely linked to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to integrate into cellular membranes, thereby influencing the structural properties and/or stability of those membranes, and possibly enhance gap junction communications. The aim of this review is to present the scientific evidence available to date.