Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids associated with better cognition at older age. To our knowledge, no previous study has evaluated their cognitive implications in the prenatal period, when the brain undergoes its most rapid development.
The objective of this study was to examine associations of maternal lutein and zeaxanthin (L/Z) intake during pregnancy with child cognition.
Among 1580 mother-child pairs in Project Viva, a prospective cohort, we assessed maternal intake of L/Z during pregnancy using food frequency questionnaires and offspring cognition by the Visual Recognition Memory paradigm in infancy, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities (WRAVMA) in early childhood, and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT-II), the WRAVMA drawing subtest, and the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning in mid-childhood. Parents completed the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Mothers consumed a daily mean (SD) of 2.6 (2.0) mg L/Z in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Mean mid-childhood KBIT-II verbal scores were higher with greater maternal L/Z intake [difference of Q4-Q1 means for first trimester: 2.67 (95% CI: 0.13, 5.20) and for second trimester: 3.55 (95% CI: 0.81, 6.28)], indicating better verbal intelligence. Secondary analyses on cognitive subtests showed that mean mid-childhood BRIEF Behavioral Regulation Index scores were lower with greater maternal L/Z intake [difference of Q4-Q1 means for first trimester: -1.63 (95% CI: -3.22, -0.04) and for second trimester: -1.89 (95% CI: -3.58, -0.21)], indicating better behavior regulation ability.
Higher maternal L/Z intake during pregnancy was associated with better offspring verbal intelligence and behavior regulation ability in mid-childhood, suggesting a potential benefit during prenatal development. We did not find a benefit of higher maternal L/Z intake on other child cognitive or behavioral outcomes. Project Viva is registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02820402.