British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Molecular Nutrition

Effect of type of TAG fatty acids on lutein and zeaxanthin bioavailability

Béatrice Gleizea1a2a3, Franck Tourniairea1a2a3, Laurence Depezaya4, Romain Botta1a2a3, Marion Nowickia1a2a3, Lionel Albinoa4, Denis Lairona1a2a3, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyota5, Pilar Galana5, Serge Hercberga5 and Patrick Borela1a2a3 c1

a1 INRA, UMR1260, Research Unit in Nutrition, Obesity and Risk of Thrombosis, Faculté de Médecine, 27 Boulevard Jean-Moulin, F-13385 Marseille, Cedex 5, France

a2 INSERM, UMR1062, Marseille F-13385, France

a3 Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille F-13385, France

a4 Bonduelle, Villeneuve d'Ascq F-59653, France

a5 Nutritional Epidemiology Research Unit (UREN), INSERM U557, INRA U1125, CNAM, Université Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité, F-93017 Bobigny Cedex, France


The xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin probably play a role in visual function and may participate in the prevention of age-related eye diseases. Although a minimum amount of TAG is required for an optimal bioavailability of these carotenoids, the effect of the type of TAG fatty acids (FA) is less clear. The aim was to assess the effect of the type of TAG FA on bioavailability of these xanthophylls. A total of three complementary models were used: an in vitro digestion model to study bioaccessibility, Caco-2 cells to study uptake efficiency and orally administered rats to study in vivo bioavailability. Results showed that lutein and zeaxanthin bioaccessibility was greater (about 20–30 %, P< 0·05) with butter and palm oil than with olive and fish oils. Mixed micelle size, which was significantly lower (about 8 %, P< 0·05) with SFA than with unsaturated FA, was inversely related to lutein and zeaxanthin bioaccessibility. There was no significant effect of the type of TAG FA on xanthophyll uptake by Caco-2 cells, but some compounds present in natural oils significantly affected xanthophyll uptake. Oral administration of rats with spinach and butter over 3 d led to a higher fasting plasma lutein concentration than oral administration with olive or fish oils. In conclusion, dietary fats rich in SFA lead to a higher bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin, as compared with fats rich in MUFA and PUFA. This is due partly to the higher bioaccessibility of these xanthophylls in the smaller mixed micelles produced when SFA are incorporated into mixed micelles.

(Received May 23 2012)

(Revised September 17 2012)

(Accepted September 22 2012)

(Online publication December 11 2012)

Key Words:

  • Xanthophyll;
  • Bioavailability;
  • SFA;
  • Unsaturated fatty acids


c1 Corresponding author: P. Borel, fax +33 4 91 78 21 01, email


  Abbreviations: BHT, butylated hydroxytoluene; DMEM, Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium; FA, fatty acid; SU.VI.MAX, Supplémentation en Vitamines et Minéraux AntioXydants