Increased intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce risk of cardiac arrhythmia

January 7, 2013

Low plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in the elderly, says a new study from Finland.

To assess the potential antiarrhythmic benefits of carotenoids, this observational study measured plasma concentrations of carotenoids while documenting incidents of atrial fibrillation (AF) in 1,847 women and men aged from 61 to 82 over an average of 2.8 years (1). The study results showed that the AF risk was signifi-cantly higher in participants with the lowest blood concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin when compared to those with the highest levels. The association was borderline significant for beta-carotene.

The researchers concluded that the intake of food rich in carotenoids may be considered useful in preventing AF, the most commonly diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. The risk of stroke, congestive heart failure and cogni-tive dysfunction is shown to be higher in patients with AF (2). Inflammation and oxidative stress that often exist simultaneously have been associated with AF. Micronutrients with antioxidant properties, such as caro-tenoids, are thought to be effective deactivators of electronically excited sensitizer molecules involved in the generation of radicals (3). In addition, their anti-inflammatory efficacy may positively affect the remodeling of atrial muscle cells and prevent development of arrhythmia.


  1. Karppi J. et al. Low levels of plasma carotenoids are associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Eur J Epidemiol. Published online December 2012.
  2. Stewart S. et al. A population-based study of the long-term risks associated with atrial fibrillation: 20-year follow-up of the Renfrew/Paisley study. Am J Med. 2002; 113:359–364.
  3. Young A. J. and Lowe G. M. Antioxidant and prooxidant properties of carotenoids. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001; 385:20–27.