The aim of the present study was to compare the effect of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods and supplements on macular pigment level (MPL) and serological markers of endothelial activation, inflammation and oxidation in healthy volunteers. We conducted two 8-week intervention studies. Study 1 (n 52) subjects were randomised to receive either carrot juice (a carotene-rich food) or spinach powder (a lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich food) for 8 weeks. Study 2 subjects (n 75) received supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin, β-carotene, or placebo for 8 weeks in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. MPL, serum concentrations of lipid-soluble antioxidants, inter-cellular adhesion molecule 1, vascular cell adhesion molecule 1, C-reactive protein and F2-isoprostane levels were assessed at baseline and post-intervention in both studies. In these intervention studies, no effects on MPL or markers of endothelial activation, inflammation or oxidation were observed. However, the change in serum lutein and zeaxanthin was associated or tended to be associated with the change in MPL in those receiving lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods (lutein r 0·40, P = 0·05; zeaxanthin r 0·30, P = 0·14) or the lutein and zeaxanthin supplement (lutein r 0·43, P = 0·03; zeaxanthin r 0·22, P = 0·28). In both studies, the change in MPL was associated with baseline MPL (food study r − 0·54, P < 0·001; supplement study r − 0·40, P < 0·001). We conclude that this 8-week supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin, whether as foods or as supplements, had no significant effect on MPL or serological markers of endothelial activation, inflammation and oxidation in healthy volunteers, but may improve MPL in the highest serum responders and in those with initially low MPL.