Nutritional biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease: The association between carotenoids, n-3 fatty acids, and dementia severity

Wei Wang, Lynne Shinto, William E. Connor, Joseph F. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants that may protect polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as n-3 fatty acids from oxidation, and are potentially important for Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevention and treatment. Fasting plasma carotenoids were measured in 36 AD subjects and 10 control subjects by HPLC. Correlations between plasma carotenoid levels, red blood cell (RBC) n-3 fatty acids, and dementia severity were examined in AD patients. Moderately severe AD patients (MMSE=16-19) had much lower plasma levels of two major carotenoids: lutein and beta-carotene, compared to mild AD patients (MMSE=24-27) or controls. Among AD patients, variables (lutein, beta-carotene, RBC docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and LDL-cholesterol) were significantly correlated with MMSE. A lower MMSE score was associated with lower lutein, beta-carotene and RBC DHA levels, and a higher LDL-cholesterol level. These variables explained the majority of variation in dementia severity (55% of variance in MMSE). Lutein, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin were positively correlated with RBC DHA in AD patients. The association between higher carotenoids levels and DHA and higher MMSE scores, supports a protective role of both types of nutrients in AD. These findings suggest targeting multiple specific nutrients, lutein, beta-carotene, and DHA in strategies to slow the rate of cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Beta-carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • Dementia
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Lutein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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