Carotenoids may increase risk of myocardial infarction.




Journal of Nutrition

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Lutein Zeaxanthin Cardiovascular Disease
Professional Data: Lutein Zeaxanthin Cardiovascular Disease


Lutein and zeaxanthin are the primary carotenoids comprising the macular pigment of the eyes. In addition to acting as optical filters, evidence suggests that they also function as antioxidants in the human retina. Inverse relationships have been reported between the incidence of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and the combined levels of lutein and zeaxanthin intake in the diet, and also their concentration in the blood serum. The results of a study that evaluated these associations supported the hypothesis that low concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macular pigment may be associated with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration. However, this issue is not completely settled because the other studies reported finding no association between the serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin and age-related macular degeneration.

Foods with high lutein and zeaxanthin content include green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, corn, orange peppers, kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, orange juice, zucchini, and different kinds of squash.

A recent study investigated serum levels of carotenoids and tocopherols and their effects on cardiovascular disease. This study included 1456 acute cases of myocardial infarction (MI) and 1456 control participants. Serum levels of tocopherols and carotenoids were measured in adipose tissue in all participants. Using a food frequency questionnaire, dietary intake was assessed. The results showed that intake of fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene were associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction. In contrast, lutein and zeaxanthin intakes were associated with a higher risk of MI. The authors concluded that beta-carotene may be associated with cardiovascular benefits and the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin need further investigation.1


1. Edmond Kato Kabagambe. Some Dietary and Adipose Tissue Carotenoids Are Associated with the Risk of Nonfatal Acute Myocardial Infarction in Costa Rica J. Nutr. Jul 2005;135:1763-1769.