Objectives: Lutein and zeaxanthin are dietary carotenoids that may influence visual and cognitive development. The objective of this study was to provide the first data on distribution of carotenoids in the infant brain and compare concentrations in preterm and term infants.
Methods: Voluntarily donated brain tissues from 30 infants who died during the first 1.5 years of life were obtained from the NICHD Brain and Tissue Bank. Tissues (hippocampus and prefrontal, frontal, auditory and occipital cortices) were extracted using standard lipid extraction procedures and analyzed using reverse phase HPLC.
Results: Lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and [beta]-carotene were the major carotenoids found in the infant brain tissues. Lutein was the predominant carotenoid accounting for 59% of total carotenoids. Preterm infants (n = 8) had significantly lower concentrations of lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin in their brain compared to term infants (n = 22) despite similarity in postmenstrual age. Among formula-fed infants, preterm infants (n = 3) had lower concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin compared to term infants (n = 5). Brain lutein concentrations were not different between breast milk-fed (n = 3) and formula-fed (n = 5) term decedents. In contrast, term decedents with measurable brain cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid that is inherently low in formula, had higher brain lutein suggesting that type of feeding is an important determinant of brain lutein concentrations.
Conclusions: These data reveal preferential accumulation and maintenance of lutein in the infant brain despite under representation in the typical infant diet. Further investigation on the impact of lutein on neural development in preterm infants is warranted.
(C) 2014 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,