RCT supports bioavailability of lutein from novel water-soluble formulation

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Commercially available lutein and zeaxanthin are mostly derived from marigolds. Image © Getty Images / PaulPaladin
Commercially available lutein and zeaxanthin are mostly derived from marigolds. Image © Getty Images / PaulPaladin
The bioavailability of lutein may be enhanced by using a water-soluble formulation, according to a new study from Taiyo using its Sunactive LT ingredient.

Data published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry​ indicated that the lutein concentrations in plasma and erythrocytes were two-fold higher after consuming supplements with the Sunactive LT ingredient, compared with lutein delivered as an oil suspension.

“Carotenoid absorption occurs in three steps: release from the food matrix and micelle formation in the digestive tract (termed bioaccessibility); enterocyte uptake and incorporation into chylomicrons; and transport via the lymph vessels through endocytosis. Therefore, the poor water dispersibility of carotenoids in the digestive tract has been suggested to be a reason for their low bioavailability,” ​wrote researchers from Taiyo Kagaku Co., Ltd.

“And several studies have indicated that these factors would improve the bioaccessibility by enhancing the dispersibility in the digestive tract. Collectively, it is suggested that Sunactive LT enhanced the bioaccessibility, and subsequently improved the bioavailability.”

The Sunactive LT ingredient is not currently commercially available within North America. 

From eyes to brains

Lutein and zeaxanthin have received a lot of attention for the potential eye health benefits because the carotenoids are concentrated in the macula, a yellow spot of about five millimeters diameter on the retina.

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 (AMD) (JAMA​, Vol. 272, pp. 1413-1420).

Numerous studies with data from primates, children, middle-aged people, and the elderly now support the importance of lutein in brain health, which is unsurprising given that the eyes and the brain are connected.  

Indeed, recent findings from pediatric brain tissue studies have shown that about 60% of the total carotenoids in the pediatric brain tissue is lutein, and yet NHANES data show that lutein is only about 12% of the carotenoids in the diets, so there is a preference for lutein in the brain (Vishwanathan et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr​. 2014).

A 2017 study by scientists from Queens University Belfast and the Macular Pigment Research Group at the Waterford Institute of Technology found that higher blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may be associated with better cognition, memory, and executive function (Journal of Gerontology, Series A​).


The new double-blind crossover study involved eight healthy men given either the lutein water-soluble formulation or a lutein oil suspension for eight days.

Results showed that baseline lutein concentrations did not affect lutein absorption. In addition, similar kinetics were recorded for both types of formulations. However, concentrations after a single lutein dose were significantly higher in the Sunactive group, compared to the oil suspension, “suggesting Sunactive LT promoted lutein absorption”​.

Source: Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/09168451.2019.1649977
“Randomized controlled trial of a water-soluble formulation of lutein in humans”
Authors: J. Kobayashi et al.

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