Background: High levels of xanthophyll carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) in the central nervous system have been previously correlated with improved cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults. In this study, we tested the effects of supplementing L and Z on older men and women with a range of baseline cognitive abilities.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not supplementation with L+Z could improve cognitive function in community-dwelling, older adults.
Design: Double-masked, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. A total of 62 older adults were randomized into groups receiving either 12 mg L+Z or a visually identical placebo. Data from 51 participants ( M = 73.7 years) were available for analysis. Retinal L+Z levels (macular pigment optical density, MPOD) were measured psychophysically using heterochromatic flicker photometry as a biomarker of cortical L+Z levels. Cognitive function was measured using the CNS Vital Signs computerized test platform.
Results: Participants receiving the active L+Z supplement had statistically significant increases in MPOD ( p < 0.03) and improvements in complex attention ( p < 0.02) and cognitive flexibility domains ( p < 0.04), relative to participants taking the placebo. A trend was also seen for the executive function domain ( p = 0.073). In male participants only, supplementation yielded improved composite memory ( p = 0.04).
Conclusions: Supplementation with L+Z improved cognitive function in community-dwelling, older men and women.