Lutein is the predominant carotenoid in pediatric and adult brain tissue. Lutein in neural tissue has biological effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and structural actions. In infants’ brains, the contribution of lutein to the total carotenoids is twice that found in adults, accounting for more than half the concentration of total carotenoids. In the adult, a variety of evidence supports a role for lutein in cognition. Therefore, Dr. Johnson argues, the greater proportion of lutein in the pediatric brain suggests a need for lutein during neural development. Infant formula is not routinely supplemented with lutein, whereas breast milk is a highly bioavailable source of lutein. Dr. Johnson suggests that further investigation of the impact of lutein intake on neural development is warranted. Given that the 1st year of life is a time of neural growth and development for which nutrition can have significant consequences, the addition of this dietary plant pigment to infant formulas could be an important strategy toward positive long-term health outcomes.
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