Lutein is a carotenoid, or pigment, that gives egg yolk, orange juice, corn, and other foods their yellow color. Lutein and zeaxanthin, another yellow pigment, are found in the retina of the eye. These two nutrients have antioxidant benefits and can trap light that has a short wavelength. Some evidence suggests that there are higher levels of carotenoids in females than in males.
Lutein and zeaxanthin levels in the body depend on dietary intake. Levels of lutein and other carotenoids may be used to measure fruit and vegetable intake.
Studies support the use of lutein to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that may cause vision loss. There is also evidence that lutein and other carotenoids may benefit clogged arteries.
Most of the information on lutein is based on blood and/or dietary intakes of lutein in relation to disease states, such as cancer, high blood pressure during pregnancy, eye disorders, lung function, muscle soreness, and weight loss.
There is some evidence that taking lutein supplements may improve antioxidant effects, although there are conflicting results. Lutein has also been studied for potential benefits in people with eye problems such as cataracts or retinal breakdown. More evidence is needed before further conclusions can be made.
2',3'-anhydrolutein, 3'-epilutein, 3-hydroxy-beta,epsilon-caroten-3'-one (3'-oxolutein), 3'-hydroxy-epsilon,epsilon-caroten-3-one, 13/15-cis-lutein, all-E lutein, all-trans-lutein, anhydroluteins, C40H56O2, Calendula officinalis, carotenoids, cis-lutein, Compositae, crystalline lutein, epsilon,epsilon-carotene-3,3'-dione, helenien, Helenium autumnale L., hydroxy-carotenoids, lutein dipalmitate, lutein ester, luteine, macular pigment, marigold extract, oxygenated carotenoids, Tagetes erecta, trans-anhydro-lutein, trans-lutein, xantophyll, zeaxanthin.
Combination products (examples): Azyr sifi (vitamin C (180mg), vitamin E (30mg), zinc (22.5mg), copper (1mg), lutein (10mg), zeaxanthin (1mg), and astaxanthin (4mg)), BioAstin® (1,732 milligrams safflower oil plus Haematococcus algae extract [contains 4 milligrams astaxanthin and 480 milligrams lutein], Betatene® (0.5% lutein, 0.75% zeaxanthin, 3.6% alpha-carotene, 70.3% all-trans beta-carotene, 22.7% beta-carotene cis isomers, 2.1% unidentified carotenoids), Eyesight Pro (feather, cockscomb seed, glossy privet fruit, lutein, bilberry powder, chrysanthemum, blueberry extract), FloraGLO® (10 milligrams or 12 milligrams lutein, 0.5 milligrams zeaxanthin), Lutamax DUO™ (20 milligrams or 10 milligrams lutein, 330 milligrams omega 3 fatty acids), Lutein ofta® (28 milligrams lutein or 0.5 milligrams per kilogram lutein, 1.2 milligrams zeaxanthin or 0.02 milligrams per kilogram zeaxanthin), OcuPower® (10 milligrams lutein, 2,500 IU vitamin A, 15,000 IU natural beta carotene, 1,500 milligrams vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin D3, 500 IU vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol succinate), 50 milligrams vitamin B1, 10 milligrams vitamin B2, 70 milligrams vitamin B3, 50 milligrams vitamin B5, 50 milligrams vitamin B6, 500 micrograms vitamin B12, 800 micrograms folic acid, 300 micrograms biotin, 500 milligrams calcium, 300 milligrams magnesium, 75 micrograms iodine, 25 milligrams zinc, 1 milligram copper, 2 milligrams manganese, 200 micrograms selenium, 200 micrograms chromium, 75 micrograms molybdenum, 600 micrograms lycopene, 160 milligrams bilberry extract, 150 milligrams alpha lipoic acid, 200 milligrams N-acetylcysteine, 100 milligrams quercetin, 100 milligrams rutin, 250 milligrams citrus bioflavonoids, 50 milligrams plant enzymes, 5 milligrams black pepper extract, 325 milligrams malic acid, 900 milligrams taurine, 100 milligrams L-glycine, 10 milligrams L-glutathione, and 2 milligrams boron), Ocuvite® Lutein AMD (12 milligrams lutein, 0.6 milligrams zeaxanthin), Ocuvite® plus Lutein (6 milligrams lutein,1,200 micrograms beta-carotene, 300 milligrams vitamin C, 60 milligrams vitamin E, 3 milligrams vitamin B2, 12 milligrams niacin, 9 milligrams zinc, 45 micrograms selenium, 0.6 milligrams copper, 1.5 milligrams manganese).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Age-related macular degeneration (loss of vision with age)
Lutein has been found to block harmful light and resist breakdown by sunlight. Some research suggests that higher lutein intake may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), although results are inconsistent. Early studies have looked at a possible link between higher lutein levels and higher macular pigment optical density (MPOD). A higher MPOD may mean that the eye is better protected from harmful light and that AMD risk is lower. Research has found that MPOD increases with increasing consumption of lutein-rich foods or lutein supplements. In people with early AMD, lutein was found to improve some measures of vision. However, further study is needed in this area before firm conclusions can be made.
Studies suggest that eating lutein-rich foods may lack significant effects on markers of oxidative stress. Clinical trial results have found conflicting results on the effects of lutein on oxidant status, DNA damage, or oxidative stress. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Lutein is believed to promote cancer cell death. Early studies suggest that lutein levels may increase with increasing carotenoid intake and that lutein-rich spinach may improve DNA damage. However, results are not consistent. Some research found that stomach cancer risk may increase with increasing lutein and zeaxanthin levels, while others report a lack of relationship between lutein intake and cancer. Further high-quality research is needed to determine the effect of lutein on human cancers.
Cataracts (clouding of eye lens)
Lutein has been found to block harmful light and resist breakdown by sunlight. Although lutein is believed to be important for eye health and to reduce cataract risk, consistent results are lacking. Early research found a lack of significant benefit on vision in people with cataracts. Further study is needed before conclusions may be made.
Although not well studied in humans, there is evidence that lutein may have benefits on cholesterol and the size of plaques in the arteries. However, results are conflicting. While one study reported that lutein and other carotenoids may reduce artery wall thickness, another suggested that lutein may lack effects. A combination of carotenoids has been found to benefit several risk factors linked to clogged arteries, but the effect of lutein alone is still unclear. More high-quality studies are needed before conclusions can be made.
Early research suggests that lutein may improve memory and learning in older women, both alone and used together with fish oil. However, further research is needed in this area to better understand the effects of lutein alone.
The relationship between lutein and type 2 diabetes risk has been studied, but results are still unclear. Lutein and zeaxanthin levels have been associated with lower blood sugar and insulin. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Eye disorders (dilated blood vessels in the eye)
Early research suggests that lutein may benefit people who have telangiectasia, or dilated blood vessels in the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin combined may increase areas of macular pigmentation in the retina. However, significant effects may be lacking in areas that already lack pigmentation. More research is needed to better understand the effect of lutein alone.
Eye disorders (inflamed or blocked blood vessels in the retina)
Early research suggests that lutein, taken together with other nutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and copper, may benefit idiopathic retinal periphlebitis, an eye disorder caused by inflamed or blocked blood vessels in the retina. More research is needed to understand the effects of lutein alone.
Eye disorders (lens clouding)
Lutein has been found to block harmful light and resist breakdown by sunlight. Lutein-rich spinach and collard greens have been studied for their potential effects on age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This disorder may lead to loss of vision due to breakdown of the retina. However, strong evidence is lacking to support a link between lutein and this eye condition. Early research suggested a lack of any link between lens clouding and nutritional risk factors, including lutein levels. More studies are needed before conclusions may be made.
Eye disorders (retina breakdown)
Lutein has been found to block harmful light and resist breakdown by sunlight. Lutein-rich spinach and collard greens have been studied for their potential effects on the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Research suggests that lutein may increase macular pigment optical density (MPOD) in people with retina breakdown. A higher MPOD may mean that the eye is better protected from harmful light and that AMD risk is lower. However, visual changes are conflicting. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Early research suggests that a combination therapy containing lutein may improve eye strain and fatigue in healthy people. More research is needed to understand the effect of lutein alone.
Early research suggests that a formula fortified with lutein may lack significant effects on weight gain in healthy infants, compared to commercial formula. More studies are needed to understand the effects of lutein alone.
High blood pressure associated with pregnancy
The link between a pregnant woman's antioxidant status and the risk of high blood pressure has been studied. It is believed that the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy decreases with higher lutein levels. More studies are needed in this area.
Many studies have looked at the potential effects of carotenoids on lung function and infections. A link between lutein and severity of illness in elderly people or lung function in adults is lacking. More research is needed in this area.
Many studies have shown the antioxidant effects of lutein. However, a supplement containing lutein lacked effects on muscle soreness or activity. More research is needed in this area.
Retinopathy (abnormal blood vessel development in retina in infants)
Early research suggests that a formula containing lutein and zeaxanthin may lack effect on newborns who have abnormal blood vessel development in the retina. Other studies suggest that lutein combined with other carotenoids may improve night vision in premature babies. More research is needed to understand the effect of lutein alone.
Ultraviolet light skin damage protection
Many studies suggest that lutein has antioxidant effects. Using a multi-ingredient supplement that contains lutein may reduced skin redness after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. More information is needed before conclusions may be made.
In healthy people, using lutein alone or in combination with other therapies lacked significant effects on vision improvement. More research is needed in this area.
Because there are high levels of lutein in green vegetables and other plants, lutein is of interest for weight loss. Two studies have found that higher lutein levels may be linked to lower body mass index (BMI) or fat mass. Further research is needed before conclusions may be made.