Macular Xanthophylls Are Related to Intellectual Ability among Adults with Overweight and Obesity


Excess adiposity or obesity has been inversely related to cognitive function and macular xanthophyll status. However, whether the neuroprotective effects of macular xanthophylls on cognitive function are independent of excess adiposity is unclear. We investigated the relationship between macular xanthophylls and intellectual ability among adults (N = 114) between 25 and 45 years with overweight and obesity (≥25 kg/m2). Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and heterochromatic flicker photometry were used to assess whole body adiposity (%Fat) and macular pigment optical density (MPOD), respectively. Dietary xanthophylls (lutein and zeaxanthin) were assessed using 7-day diet records. The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test-2 (KBIT-2) was used to assess general intelligence (IQ) as well as fluid and crystallized intelligence. Bivariate correlations revealed that MPOD was inversely related to %Fat and positively associated with IQ and fluid intelligence. Although %Fat was inversely correlated to IQ and fluid intelligence, this relationship did not persist following adjustment for sex and MPOD. Further, MPOD was an independent predictor of IQ and fluid intelligence. However, no significant relationships were observed between MPOD and crystalized intelligence. These results suggest that macular xanthophylls are selectively related to fluid intelligence, regardless of degree of adiposity among adults with overweight and obesity.


Naiman A. Khan, Anne. M. Walk, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Alicia R. Jones, Corinne N. Cannavale, Sharon V. Thompson, Ginger E. Reeser and Hannah D. Holscher (2018) Macular Xanthophylls Are Related to Intellectual Ability among Adults with Overweight and Obesity. Nutrients Open Access Journal. DOI:

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