Bioavailability of Lutein from Marigold Flowers (Free vs. Ester Forms): A Randomised Cross-Over Study to Assess Serum Response and Visual Contrast Threshold in Adults


Nutrients. 2024 May 8;16(10):1415. doi: 10.3390/nu16101415.


Lutein (Lut) and zeaxanthin (Zeax) are found in the blood and are deposited in the retina (macular pigment). Both are found in the diet in free form and esterified with fatty acids. A high intake and/or status is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, especially eye diseases. There is a large global demand for Lut in the dietary supplement market, with marigold flowers being the main source, mainly as lutein esters. As the bioavailability of Lut from free or ester forms is controversial, our aim was to assess the bioavailability of Lut (free vs. ester) and visual contrast threshold (CT). Twenty-four healthy subjects (twelve women, twelve men), aged 20-35 and 50-65 years, were enrolled in a cross-sectional study to consume 6 mg lutein/day from marigold extract (free vs. ester) for two months. Blood samples were taken at baseline and after 15, 40, and 60 days in each period. Serum Lut and Zeax were analysed using HPLC, and dietary intake was determined with a 7-day food record at the beginning of each period. CT, with and without glare, was at 0 and 60 days at three levels of visual angle. Lut + Zeax intake at baseline was 1.9 mg/day, and serum lutein was 0.36 ┬Ámol/L. Serum lutein increased 2.4-fold on day 15 (up to 0.81 and 0.90 ┬Ámol/L with free and ester lutein, respectively) and was maintained until the end of the study. Serum Zeax increased 1.7-fold. There were no differences in serum Lut responses to free or ester lutein at any time point. CT responses to lutein supplementation (free vs. ester) were not different at any time point. CT correlated with Lut under glare conditions, and better correlations were obtained at low frequencies in the whole group due to the older group. The highest correlations occurred between CT at high frequency and with glare with serum Lut and Lut + Zeax. Only in the older group were inverse correlations found at baseline at a high frequency with L + Z and with Lut/cholesterol and at a low frequency with Lut/cholesterol. In conclusion, daily supplementation with Lut for 15 days significantly increases serum Lut in normolipemic adults to levels associated with a reduced risk of age-related eye disease regardless of the chemical form of lutein supplied. Longer supplementation, up to two months, does not significantly alter the concentration achieved but may contribute to an increase in macular pigment (a long-term marker of lutein status) and thus improve the effect on visual outcomes.

PMID:38794653 | DOI:10.3390/nu16101415