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Lutein, zeaxanthin, macular pigment, and visual function in adult cystic fibrosis patients.

  • Author(s): Schupp, Christine;
  • Olano-Martin, Estibaliz;
  • Gerth, Christina;
  • Morrissey, Brian M;
  • Cross, Carroll E;
  • Werner, John S
  • et al.


Pancreatic insufficiency in cystic fibrosis (CF), even with replacement pancreatic enzyme therapy, is often associated with decreased carotenoid absorption. Because the macular pigment of the retina is largely derived from 2 carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, the decreased serum concentrations seen in CF may have consequences for ocular and retinal health


Our aims were to determine plasma carotenoid concentrations, determine absorption and distribution of macular pigment, and assess retinal health and visual function in CF patients.


In 10 adult CF patients (ages 21-47 y) and 10 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects, we measured macular pigment density in vivo, measured serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations, and comprehensively assessed visual performance (including contrast sensitivity, color discrimination, and retinal function) under conditions of daylight illumination.


Serum lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly reduced (P < 0.005) in CF patients ( +/- SD: 87 +/- 36.1 and 27 +/- 15.8 nmol/L, respectively) compared with control subjects (190 +/- 72.1 and 75 +/- 23.6 nmol/L, respectively). Although macular pigment optical density was significantly lower (P < 0.0001) in the CF group (0.24 +/- 0.11) than in the control group (0.53 +/- 0.12), no significant differences in visual function were observed.


Adults with CF have dramatically low serum and macular concentrations of carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), but their ocular status and visual function are surprisingly good. The clinical implications of low plasma concentrations of carotenoids in CF are yet to be clarified.

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