Acute foveal blue-light–induced damage was greater in monkeys fed xanthophyll-free diets and lacking macular pigment than in normal monkeys, but decreased to normal after supplementation with lutein or zeaxanthin. Monkeys that were also deficient in n-3 fatty acids had greater damage in the parafovea. These findings support both nutrients' protective role in macular disease.
Blue-light photooxidative damage has been implicated in the etiology of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The macular pigment xanthophylls lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) and n–3 fatty acids may reduce this damage and lower the risk of AMD. This study investigated the effects of the lifelong absence of xanthophylls followed by L or Z supplementation, combined with the effects of n–3 fatty acid deficiency, on acute blue-light photochemical damage.
Subjects included eight rhesus monkeys with no lifelong intake of xanthophylls and no detectable macular pigment. Of these, four had low n–3 fatty acid intake and four had adequate intakes. Control subjects had typical L, Z, and n–3 fatty acid intake. Retinas received 150-μm-diameter exposures of low-power 476-nm laser light at 0.5 mm (∼2°) eccentricity, which is adjacent to the macular pigment peak, and parafoveally at 1.5 mm (∼6°). Exposures of xanthophyll-free animals were repeated after supplementation with pure L or Z for 22 to 28 weeks. Ophthalmoscopically visible lesion areas were plotted as a function of exposure energy, with greater slopes of the regression lines indicating greater sensitivity to damage.
In control animals, the fovea was less sensitive to blue-light–induced damage than the parafovea. Foveal protection was absent in xanthophyll-free animals but was evident after supplementation. In the parafovea, animals low in n–3 fatty acids showed greater sensitivity to damage than animals with adequate levels.
After long-term xanthophyll deficiency, L or Z supplementation protected the fovea from blue light–induced damage, whereas adequate n–3 fatty acid levels reduced the damage in the parafovea.