Lutein & Zeaxanthin (2015, '17, '18) & Neurocognitive Functioning


Learn more about support for Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers have known for some time that the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin play an important role in vision health but evidence is accumulating that they also support cognitive functioning of the brain.

Scientists investigated the role of these important carotenoids in neurocognitive functioning - the capacity of the neurological system of the brain to support interaction with the world.

Zeaxanthin inhibits amyloid beta aggregation,1 and, combined with lutein, reduces AD mortality.2 Supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin improved cognitive function in community-dwelling, older, men and women,3 as well as with the addition of mesozeaxanthin was shown clinically and meaningfully to improve vision in AD patients.4

The research was accomplished making use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI used MRI technology to measure changes in blood flow in the brain in order to evaluate brain activity. In the brain the circulation of blood and technology that measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. This is possible because when difference parts of the brain become active there is increased blood flow to that part of the brain.

In the study about 40 older patient who were living in retirement/rest homes were asked to memorize and remember pairs of words that were not related to each other. The levels of lutein and zeaxanthin were measured in both the retinal pigment and in the blood plasma.

The researchers found that the levels of the carotenoids were significantly associated with the ability of the brain's neural network to communicate - which in turn was dependent upon blood-oxygen flow. The net result was a markedly increased capacity to accomplish the memorize/remember task.

The scientists concluded that lutein and zeaxanthin support the brain's cognitive functioning capacity through supporting the efficiency of neural networks in the brain.5

Other research suggests that a combination of carotenoids (such as lutein) and omega-3 essential fatty acids is more effective than either alone, although further study is needed to confirm the finding.6


1. Lakey-Beitia J, Doens D, Jagadeesh Kumar D, Murillo E, Fernandez PL, et al. (2017). Anti-amyloid aggregation activity of novel carotenoids: implications for Alzheimer's drug discovery. Clin Interv Aging. May 15;12:815-822.
2. Min JY, Min KB. (2014). Serum lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the risk of Alzheimer's disease mortality in older adults. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;37(3-4):246-56.
3. Hammon BR, Miller LS, Bello MO, Lindberg CA, Mewborn C, et al. (2017). Effects of Lutein/Zeaxanthin Supplementation on the Cognitive Function of Community Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Front Aging Neurosci. Aug 3;9:254.
4. Nolan JM, Loskutova E, Howard A, Mulcahy R, Moran R, et al. (2015). The impact of supplemental macular carotenoids in Alzheimer's disease: a randomized clinical trial. J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;44(4):1157-69.
5. Lindbergh CA, Mewborn CM, Hammond BR, Renzi-Hammond LM, Curran-Celentano JM, et al. (2017). Relationship of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Levels to Neurocognitive Functioning: An fMRI Study of Older Adults, J Int Neuropsychol Soc. Jan;23(1):11-22.
6. Nolan JM, Mulcahy R, Power R, Moran R, Howard AN. (2018). Nutritional Intervention to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease: Potential Benefits of Xanthophyll Carotenoids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Combined. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;64(2):367-378.