Assessment of maternal macular pigment optical density (MPOD) as a potential marker for dietary carotenoid intake during lactation in humans

Ateka Al-Hassan, Rutvi Vyas, Yue Zhang, Michaela Sisitsky, Borjan Gagoski, Jonathan S. Litt, Ryan J. Larsen, Matthew J. Kuchan, John B. Lasekan, Brad P. Sutton, Patricia Ellen Grant, Yangming Ou, Sarah U. Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pregnancy and lactation can change the maternal nutrient reserve. Non-invasive, quan-titative markers of maternal nutrient intake could enable personalized dietary recommendations that improve health outcomes in mothers and infants. Macular pigment optical density (MPOD) is a candidate marker, as MPOD values generally reflect carotenoid intake. We evaluated the association of MPOD with dietary and breastmilk carotenoids in postpartum women. MPOD measurements and dietary intake of five carotenoids were obtained from 80 mothers in the first three months postpartum. Breastmilk samples from a subset of mothers were analyzed to determine their nutrient composition. The association between MPOD and dietary or breastmilk carotenoids was quantitatively assessed to better understand the availability and mobilization of carotenoids. Our results showed that dietary α-carotene was positively correlated with MPOD. Of the breastmilk carotenoids, 13-cis-lutein and trans-lutein were correlated with MPOD when controlled for the total lutein in breastmilk. Other carotenoids in breastmilk were not associated with MPOD. Maternal MPOD is positively correlated with dietary intake of α-carotene in the early postpartum period, as well as with the breastmilk content of lutein. MPOD may serve as a potential marker for the intake of carotenoids, especially α-carotene, in mothers in the early postpartum period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number182
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Breastmilk
  • Carotenoids
  • Lactation
  • Macular pigment optical density (MPOD)
  • Nutrition
  • Postpartum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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