Competitive inhibition of carotenoid transport and tissue concentrations by high dose supplements of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene

Yingming Wang, D. Roger Illingworth, Sonja L. Connor, P. Barton Duell, William E. Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Carotenoids may interact differently in their absorption and transport in animals and humans. The simultaneous administration of large amounts of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene would affect not only plasma values but also their concentrations in the retina and other tissues. Objective: In this study, we investigated the transport, distribution and interactions of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene in the plasma, retina and other tissues of chicks fed supplements rich in lutein, zeaxanthin or beta-carotene. Methods: Newly hatched male Leghorn chicks were randomly assigned to ten groups. One group provided baseline data (1-day-old group). The other groups were fed one of the following six diets for 14 or 28 days: high lutein diet; high zeaxanthin diet; three high beta-carotene supplemented diets and the control diet. Plasma and tissues including retina were analyzed for lutein and zeaxanthin and beta-carotene at baseline and at 14 and 28 days. Results: All tissues had increased concentrations of lutein after the high lutein diet and had increased concentrations of zeaxanthin after the high zeaxanthin diet. After 28 days, the retinal concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in the chicks supplemented with lutein (27.2 mg/kg diet) and zeaxanthin (15.3 mg/kg diet) increased 128 and 116%, respectively, compared to the retinas of chicks fed the control diet (lutein 5.2 mg/kg and zeaxanthin 1.7 mg/kg). Lutein was decreased in plasma and other non-retinal tissues when the diet was supplemented with zeaxanthin; likewise, zeaxanthin was decreased in plasma and non-retinal tissues after the lutein supplement. Zeaxanthin increased in the retina after the high lutein supplement, and retinal lutein was maintained after the high zeaxanthin supplement. The high beta-carotene supplement increased the beta-carotene content of plasma and liver very little, and beta-carotene was not found in any other tissue in the chick, including the retina. More importantly, beta-carotene decreased the concentrations of both lutein and zeaxanthin in the plasma and most tissues, including the retina. Conclusion: High dose dietary supplementation of a single carotenoid may alter the assimilation of other carotenoids. The retina appears to have the capacity to preserve accumulation of lutein and zeaxanthin, but this capacity is diminished when intake of beta-carotene is high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-336
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Carotenoid absorption and interactions
  • Retinal carotenoids
  • Supplements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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