New investigations into macular pigment optical density

  • Olivia Howells

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Macular pigment (MP) is the collective name for three carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, which are found at high concentrations in the central macula. The macular carotenoids, like all carotenoids, are entirely of dietary origin. The term ‘macular pigment optical density’ (MPOD) refers to the peak concentration of MP in the retina, which varies from one individual to the next and is measurable in vivo. On account of its blue-light-filtering and antioxidant properties, MP has become a subject of interest with respect to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the hypothesis being that MP helps to protect against AMD; the higher the MPOD, the lower the risk for AMD.
Recently, a new MPOD-measuring device, the MPS 9000 (MPS), entered the ophthalmic market. Using this device, the research described here aimed to contribute new information to the MP literature. A second MPOD instrument, the Macular Pigment Reflectometer, was also used at times, but a reliability study (included in the thesis) demonstrated that it was unsuitable for use on its own.
First, a series of exploratory investigations were undertaken to maximize the accuracy and consistency of MPOD measurements taken with the MPS; a protocol was established that substantially improved repeatability. Subsequently, a series of MPOD-based studies were conducted on anisometropia, South Asian race, blue-light-filtering contact lenses, and dietary modification with kale. The principle findings were as follows: interocular MPOD differences were not attributable to interocular refractive error differences; young adults of South Asian origin had significant gender-related MPOD differences (males>females, p<0.01), and they also had significantly higher MPOD than Caucasians (p<0.0005); wearing blue-light-filtering contact lenses for eight months did not affect MPOD; and dietary modification with kale for 16 weeks did not increase MPOD. This body of research adds new insights to MP knowledge, which in turn may contribute to MP knowledge in the context of AMD.
Date of Award9 Feb 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrank Eperjesi (Supervisor) & Hannah Bartlett (Supervisor)


  • heterochromatic flicker photometry
  • kale
  • lutein
  • macular degeneration

Cite this