Dietary carotenoids, plant pigments with anti-oxidant properties, accumulate in neural tissue and are often found in lower concentrations among individuals with obesity. Given previous evidence of negative associations between excess adiposity and memory, it is possible that greater carotenoid status may confer neuroprotective effects among persons with overweight or obesity. This study aimed to elucidate relationships between carotenoids assessed in diet, serum, and the macula (macular pigment optical density (MPOD)) and relational memory among adults who are overweight or obese. Adults aged 25–45 years (N
= 94) completed a spatial reconstruction task. Task performance was evaluated for accuracy of item placement during reconstruction relative to the location of the item during the study phase. Dietary carotenoids were assessed using 7-day diet records. Serum carotenoids were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were used to determine the relationship between carotenoids and task performance. Although initial correlations indicated that dietary lutein, beta-carotene, and serum beta-carotene were positively associated with memory performance, these relationships were not sustained following adjustment for age, sex, and BMI. Serum lutein remained positively associated with accuracy in object binding and inversely related to misplacement error after controlling for covariates. Macular carotenoids were not related to memory performance. Findings from this study indicate that among the carotenoids evaluated, lutein may play an important role in hippocampal function among adults who are overweight or obese.
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