Bettler J, Zimmer JP, Neuringer M, DeRusso PA.
Eur J Nutr. 2010 Feb;49(1):45-51.


Background Lutein is a carotenoid that may play a role in eye health. Human milk typically contains higher concentrations of lutein than infant formula. Preliminary data suggest there are differences in serum lutein concentrations between breastfed and formula-fed infants.

Aim of the study To measure the serum lutein concentrations among infants fed human milk or formulas with and without added lutein.

Methods A prospective, double-masked trial was conducted in healthy term formula-fed infants (n = 26) randomized between 9 and 16 days of age to study formulas containing 20 (unfortified), 45, 120, and 225 mcg/l of lutein. A breastfed reference group was studied (n = 14) and milk samples were collected from their mothers. Primary outcome was serum lutein concentration at week 12.

Results Geometric mean lutein concentration of human milk was 21.1 mcg/l (95% CI 14.9–30.0). At week 12, the human milk group had a sixfold higher geometric mean serum lutein (69.3 mcg/l; 95% CI 40.3–119) than the unfortified formula group (11.3 mcg/l; 95% CI 8.1–15.8). Mean serum lutein increased from baseline in each formula group except the unfortified group. Linear regression equation indicated breastfed infants had a greater increase in serum lutein (slope 3.7; P < 0.001) per unit increase in milk lutein than formula-fed infants (slope 0.9; P < 0.001).

Conclusions Breastfed infants have higher mean serum lutein concentrations than infants who consume formula unfortified with lutein. These data suggest approximately 4 times more lutein is needed in infant formula than in human milk to achieve similar serum lutein concentrations among breastfed and formula fed infants.

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