Abbott announces research confirming presence of lutein in key regions of the infant brain

Preliminary new research(1) demonstrates for the first time that lutein, an important phytonutrient (plant-based nutrient) that supports eye health, is the predominant carotenoid present in key areas of the infant brain, including areas that regulate overall brain function, cognition, vision, hearing and speech. This new research, supported by Abbott, was presented by Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, a scientist in the Carotenoids and Health Laboratory at Tufts University, at the 16th International Symposium on Carotenoids, in Krakow, Poland.

“To our knowledge this is the first time that research has been conducted to demonstrate that the infant brain appears to preferentially take up more lutein compared to other carotenoids,” said Dr. Johnson, who led the research with coauthors

from Abbott and Tufts University and who is a member of Abbott’s Science Nutrition Advisory Board on the Macular Xanthophylls and DHA. “Additional studies may lead to greater understanding of the functional impact of lutein in infant brains.”

Results from the abstract show that lutein concentrations in these important brain regions range from 2.5 to four times that of zeaxanthin and five to six times that of beta-carotene, depending on the specific brain region. Because lutein is not produced by the body, prior to the introduction of solid foods, infants can only obtain lutein from breast milk or formulas that are supplemented with lutein.(2)

“These findings support the hypothesis that during this critical time, lutein may play a role in the brain’s development,” said Robert H. Miller, PhD, division vice president, Global R&D and Scientific Affairs, Abbott. “Our continued focus and commitment to clinically based nutrition science is what sets us apart from others in the pediatric nutrition category.”

The International Symposium on Carotenoids emphasized research on current and emerging trends in carotenoid research, including the impact of carotenoids on human health, vision, prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. At the meeting, Abbott also presented a position statement(3) released by its Science and Nutrition Advisory Board on the Macular Xanthophylls and DHA, which, based on several scientific findings, concluded there is a strong need to study the potential benefits of lutein in cognitive development in infants. This statement is based on lutein research conducted in older adults demonstrating cognitive benefits.

About the Study Methodology

Researchers analyzed 92 pre-existing tissue samples from a federally-funded brain and tissue bank. The study objective was to determine carotenoid distribution (including lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene) in the infant hippocampus, frontal, auditory, and occipital cortices.

About Lutein

Lutein is a carotenoid, a phytonutrient found naturally in eggs and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Lutein concentrates in the eye and has recently been discovered to be the predominant carotenoid in key areas of the infant brain associated with cognition, vision and hearing. In the eye, lutein works in two ways: it protects by absorbing potentially damaging light, and it protects against oxidative damage.

About Abbott Nutrition

For more than 85 years, Abbott Nutrition has been developing and marketing science-based nutritional products to support the growth, health and wellness of people of all ages. Internationally recognized brands include the Similac® brand of infant formulas; the Gain® brand of growing-up milks; the PediaSure® line of  nutritionals for children; and the Ensure® brand of complete and balanced nutrition for adults. The company is a leader in nutritional products clinically shown to address the distinct dietary needs of people with serious health conditions or special nutrient requirements, such as the Glucerna® brand of nutrition shakes, bars and cereal for people with diabetes. Abbott Nutrition also offers EAS® specialized products to meet the unique nutritional needs of athletes, as well as ZonePerfect® all-natural nutrition bars for busy, active lifestyles. More information about Abbott Nutrition’s products is available at

About Abbott

Abbott is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics. The company employs nearly

90,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries. Abbott's news releases and other information are available on the company's Web site at

  1. Vishwanathan, et al, Lutein is the predominant carotenoid in the infant brain, International Symposium on Carotenoids, July 2011.
  2. Excluding trace inherent amounts
  3. Bernstein, et al. Position statement on lutein and its role in cognition and eye health- The Science and Nutrition Advisory Board, International Symposium on Carotenoids, July 2011


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