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Lutein 

Other name(s):

luteol, xanthophyll

General description

Lutein is an antioxidant occurs naturally. It protects and improves eye function. It is part of a group of substances called carotenoids. Lutein and other carotenoids such as zeaxanthin may help prevent or slow macular degeneration. This is an eye disease. It is 1 of the leading causes of blindness in people over age 60.

Lutein was first isolated from egg yolks. It’s 1 of the pigments in the petals of yellow flowers and bird feathers.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most common carotenoids in nature. They can be found in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, peas, lettuce, parsley, spinach, and kale. They are also in egg yolks.

Medically valid uses

There are no proven uses for lutein or zeaxanthin supplements. But lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids such as beta-carotene may prevent or slow macular degeneration. Of all the pigments in the macula, lutein is present in the highest amount. The macula is the part of the retina that creates sharp vision.

Lutein and zeaxanthin work by protecting the retina of the eye from the effects of aging. They also protect it from ultraviolet light. They work as antioxidants in the retina. They may protect the fragile, retinal vessels from oxidative damage. This damage may lead to sclerotic changes in the lining of the vessels. Over time this may cause macular degeneration. As pigments, they may block harmful types of light from being absorbed by the sensitive retina.

These carotenoids may prevent macular degeneration. But they may not treat the condition once you have it. You need to eat a diet with enough lutein for years before the start of macular degeneration. This will lead to the greatest benefit.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Lutein may help reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It may also lower the risk of cataracts.

Dosing format

There is no set dose for lutein. A diet high in vegetables and fruits should give you enough lutein. This includes mainly red, orange, and deep yellow fruits and vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Supplement doses range from 5–30 mg per day.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

There are no known side effects of lutein. There are also no known food or medicine interactions linked with it.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2019