FDSN Seminar Series: ‘Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Goji Berries, and Eye Health’

The Department of Food Science and Nutrition presents its spring 2024 seminar series featuring guest speaker Robert M. Hackman, a research nutritionist in the Department of Nutrition at University of California, Davis, who will give a presentation on “Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Goji Berries, and Eye Health.” This seminar will take place on Thursday, February 15, from 12:45–1:45 p.m. over Zoom.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The pathology destroys the macula—the part of the retina that confers sharp, clear, and color vision. The disease risk increases with age and affects women more than men. No options yet exist to reduce the risk of early AMD, but the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are concentrated in the macula, show promise, since they block damaging blue light and modulate oxidative stress. Goji berries contain the highest amount of zeaxanthin among all known dietary sources, and along with the lutein and complementary bioactives in the berry, may offer an approach to reduce the risk of AMD. We have recently shown that goji berry intake for 90 days significantly increased a functional biomarker of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula in healthy adults. Now we are conducting a trial to assess the effects of goji berry intake for 180 days among participants who are at risk for AMD and compare their multiple ocular outcomes to a control group consuming calorie- and fiber-matched foods. Our study will also profile gut microbiome changes using shallow shotgun metagenomic sequencing, assess differences in associated plasma microbial metabolites, and follow plasma levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. If successful, the results can give consumers and health care providers new food-based options to reduce the risk of AMD and promote better eye health. The results may also stimulate development of goji berries as a viable specialty crop in the U.S.


Robert Hackman earned his Ph.D. in Nutrition from University of California, Davis. He has been a faculty member at the University of Oregon and now at UC Davis for the past 42 years. In addition to mentoring Ph.D. students, his research has explored the role of fruits, nuts, wine, and unique botanical extracts on vascular function, inflammation and skin aging. He is currently the principal investigator on a three-year clinical study to assess the role of goji berry intake on eye health and age-related macular degeneration.