New lutein-phospholipid ingredient boosts lutein absorption much more than conventional form: Study

By Stephen Daniells contact

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Lutein ester from enriched egg yolk has been reported to have superior absorption than lutein from certain vegetable or supplement sources, said the researchers. Image: iStockPhoto
Lutein ester from enriched egg yolk has been reported to have superior absorption than lutein from certain vegetable or supplement sources, said the researchers. Image: iStockPhoto

Related tags: Lutein

A new solid-lipid particle (SLP) complex of lutein and phospholipids may increase plasma lutein levels by a whopping 563%, says a new study.

Scientists led by Dr Robert DiSilvestro from Columbus Nutraceutical Formulations LLC report that a conventional lutein ester increased plasma lutein levels by 88%

“A 10 day supplementation of solid-lipid particle complex lutein produced far greater plasma accumulation than lutein ester,” ​they wrote in the Nutrition Journal​. “The solid-lipid particle complex lutein merits consideration for possible use in eye health supplements.”

Egg yolks

The link between lutein and eye health was first reported in 1994 by Dr Johanna Seddon and her co-workers at Harvard University, who found a link between the intake of carotenoid-rich food, particularly dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and a significant reduction in age-related macular degeneration (JAMA​, Vol. 272, pp. 1413-1420).

The macula is a yellow spot of about five millimeters diameter on the retina. The yellow color is due to the content of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are the only carotenoids capable of filtering the harmful blue light than can damage cells in the eye, the rods and the cones.

Eye © malivoja
Image © iStockPhoto / malivoja

A thin macular pigment can allow the blue light through and destroy the cells. Maintaining high levels of the macular carotenoids, and therefore the macular pigment, is seen by many eye health experts as a valid approach to maintaining eye health and reducing the risk of AMD.

The research team, which included scientists from Ohio State University and OhioHealth, explained that lutein ester from enriched egg yolk has been reported to have superior absorption than lutein from certain vegetable or supplement sources, and this raises the possibility that the phospholipids in egg yolk may be contributing to this enhanced availability.

Study details

Dr DiSilvestro and his co-workers recruited six men and six women aged between 52 and 65 to participate in their study. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive supplements with 10 mg of lutein in the form of lutein ester or a solid-lipid particle (SLP, Verdure Sciences) complex lutein for ten days.

Results showed that the mean percent change in plasma lutein values over 10 days increased by 88% for the conventional lutein ester and by 563% for SLP complex lutein.

“The higher plasma lutein concentrations produced by the solid-lipid particle complex lutein is assumed to reflect better absorption from the GI tract,” ​wrote the authors. “However, in theory, the high plasma values could instead reflect poor uptake into body tissues. Two lines of reasoning make this unlikely. First, no studies report this type behavior, but studies have shown increases in serum or plasma lutein to be accompanied by tissue increases.

“Second, if this study’s results are due to poor tissue uptake of the solid-lipid particle complex lutein, this complex would have to enter intestinal cells well, but not enter other types of cells well. Nothing in current knowledge of carotenoid metabolism points to the possibility of such behavior.”


The study was funded by Verdure Sciences, and a spokesperson for the company told us that its SLP Lutein complex is currently in the final stages of commercialization and is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of the upcoming year.

“This pilot study examined the bioavailability of SLP Lutein, which may prove beneficial to overall eye health and healthy ocular aging in conjunction with administering a lower dose,” ​said the spokesperson.

“Currently, we are looking at studies to determine the mechanism of absorption of SLP Lutein and this will be followed up futuristically with efficacy studies,” ​ they added.

Source: Nutrition Journal
2015, 14​:104, doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0089-x
“A pilot comparison of phospolipidated lutein to conventional lutein for effects on plasma lutein concentrations in adult people”
Authors: R.A. DiSilvestro, et al. 

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