Macular pigment (MP), concentrated in the central area of the retina, contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. A low MP density could be a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. Little information is available regarding MP density in relation to serum lutein and zeaxanthin and adipose lutein concentrations in a general population.
The objective was to investigate the associations between MP density and serum lutein, serum zeaxanthin, and adipose lutein, taking into account potential confounders in a population.
Volunteers (n = 376) aged 18-75 y were recruited. In a cross-sectional design, serum (n = 376) and adipose tissue (n = 187) were analyzed for carotenoids, and MP density was measured by spectral fundus reflectance.
Mean MP density in the total study group was 0.33 +/- 0.15. MP density was 13% higher in men than in women (P < 0.05). Serum and blood concentrations of alpha-tocopherol, vitamin C, and all carotenoids except lycopene were significantly higher in women. Adipose lutein concentrations were also significantly higher in women than in men. Regression models showed a positive significant association between MP density and serum lutein, serum zeaxanthin, and adipose lutein concentrations in men after adjustment for age, but no relation in women. In men, serum lutein remained significantly associated with MP density after adjustment for age, total cholesterol, body mass index, and smoking.
The associations between MP density and serum lutein, serum zeaxanthin, and adipose lutein concentrations are stronger in men than in women.