Macular Pigment Optical Density and Skin Carotenoids in a Childhood Sample

Corinne N. Cannavale, Shelby A. Keye, Laura M. Rosok, Shelby G. Martell, Tori A. Holthaus, Lauren R. Raine, Sean P. Mullen, Hannah D. Holscher, Charles H. Hillman, Arthur F. Kramer, Neal J. Cohen, Billy R. Hammond, Lisa Renzi-Hammond, Naiman A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Carotenoids are plant pigments with light filtering and antioxidant properties that deposit in human tissues, including retina and skin. Descriptive characteristics and covariates of carotenoid status in macula and skin have been examined in adults; however, similar studies in children are limited. Thus, this study aimed to delineate how factors of age, sex, race, weight status, and dietary carotenoid intake relate to macular and skin carotenoids in children. Methods: Children (7–13 y, N = 375) completed heterochromatic flicker photometry to assess macular pigment optical density (MPOD). Participants underwent anthropometrics to measure weight status (BMI percentile [BMI%]), and parent/guardian provided demographic information. Subsample data were available for skin carotenoids (N = 181), assessed using reflection spectroscopy, and dietary carotenoids (N = 101) using the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire. Relationships between skin and macular carotenoids were assessed using partial Pearson's correlations controlling for age, sex, race, and BMI%. Relationships between dietary carotenoids and macular and skin carotenoids were assessed using stepwise linear regression including age, sex, race, and BMI% in the model. Results: Mean MPOD was 0.56 ± 0.22 and skin carotenoid score was 282 ± 94.6. There was no significant correlation between MPOD and skin carotenoids (r = 0.02, P = 0.76). BMI% was negatively associated with skin (stdβ = −0.42, P < 0.001), but not macular carotenoids (stdβ = −0.04, P = 0.70). Neither MPOD nor skin carotenoids were associated with age, sex, or race (all P > 0.10). MPOD was positively associated with energy-adjusted reported lutein + zeaxanthin intake (stdβ = 0.27, P = 0.01). Skin carotenoids were positively associated with energy-adjusted reported carotenoid intake (stdβ = 0.26, P = 0.01). Conclusions: The mean MPOD values in children were higher than what has been reported in adult populations. Previous studies in adult samples report an average MPOD of 0.21. Although macular and skin carotenoids were not related, they were associated with dietary carotenoids relevant to the respective tissues; however, skin carotenoids may be more susceptible negative influence from higher weight status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3144-3151
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • humans
  • lutein
  • obesity
  • xanthophylls
  • zeaxanthin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Macular Pigment Optical Density and Skin Carotenoids in a Childhood Sample'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this