A double-blinded, randomized controlled trial carried out with 150 newborn infants in Italy has demonstrated the protective effect of an intervention of 0.28 mg lutein provided at 6 and 36 hours after birth against oxidative stress.
Lutein is the dominant carotenoid in the infant brain and the major carotenoid found in the retina of the eye. The human body depends entirely on dietary intake to maintain tissue lutein levels. The most common sources are leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.
Lutein is a potent antioxidant, able to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS). It provides protection against phototoxicity and oxidative injury in the macula of the eye. Lutein has also been shown to have useful anti-angiogenic and neuroprotective properties (2).
When the baby is still in the womb, its intrauterine life is characterized by a protective, hypoxic environment (i.e., very low oxygen levels). So birth is accompanied by the shock of high environmental oxygen levels. This high oxidative stress environment means the newborn baby is under attack from ROS which can be the starting point of inflammatory diseases. It seems logical that tissue antioxidant levels are important in providing protection.
A recent study (3) has demonstrated in cohort of 89 new mothers that there is a dose-dependent effect of lutein supplementation in the breast milk and plasma of lactating women and in the plasma of breast-fed infants two to three months after giving birth. The lutein supplementation had no effect on the levels of other carotenoids.
Perrone et al. (1) conducted a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial (1) with 150 newborn infants in Prato, Italy. They provided the babies in the intervention arm with 0.28 mg lutein by dropper before breast-feeding at 6 and 36 hours after birth. Blood samples were taken, and levels of total hydroperoxides, oxidized protein products and biological antioxidant potential (BAP) were determined. The lutein intervention babies showed lower hydroperoxide levels and significantly improved BAP levels (mean values: 0.17 v 0.06).
The authors conclude that “lutein supplementation should be considered in all formula fed newborns and to integrate the nursing mother maternal diet, lacking an adequate dietary intake of lutein.”