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Lutein

What is it?

Lutein is a type of vitamin called a carotenoid. It is related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. Foods rich in lutein include broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, and squash. Lutein is absorbed best when it is taken with a high-fat meal.

Many people think of lutein as "the eye vitamin." They use it to prevent eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, eye strain, an inherited condition that causes vision loss (choroideremia), and a certain eye disease that affects the retina (retinitis pigmentosa).

Some people also use it for preventing numerous cancers, type 2 diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, cognitive function, high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), and heart disease. Lutein has also been used to prevent complications in infants that are born too early and have low birth weight.

Many multivitamins contain lutein. They usually provide a relatively small amount of 0.25 mg per tablet.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for LUTEIN are as follows:

Likely effective for...

  • Lutein deficiency. Taking lutein by mouth prevents lutein deficiency.

Possibly effective for...

  • An eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). People who eat higher amounts of lutein in their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing AMD. But people who already eat high amounts of lutein don't seem to benefit from increasing their intake even more. Taking lutein supplements for up to 36 months can improve some symptoms of AMD. But it does not seem to prevent AMD from becoming worse. Research on the use of supplements containing lutein and other ingredients shows conflicting results.
  • Cataracts. Eating higher amounts of lutein is linked with a lower risk of developing cataracts. Taking supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin reduces the risk of developing cataracts that require surgical removal in people who eat low amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin as part of their diet. Also, taking lutein supplements seems to improve vision in older people who already have cataracts and do not already consume a lot of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • A lung disease that affects newborns (bronchopulmonary dysplasia). . Research shows that giving preterm infants 0.5 mL of a product containing lutein and zeaxanthin (LUTEINofta, SOOFT Italia SpA) by mouth once daily does not reduce the chance of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
  • Heart disease (cardiovascular disease). Research shows that taking lutein 10 mg with zeaxanthin 2 mg by mouth daily does not prevent death due to heart disease or heart-related adverse event such as stroke, heart attack, or chest pain in older people.
  • Clogged arteries (coronary heart disease). People who eat higher amounts of lutein do not have a lower the risk of developing clogged arteries compared to those who eat lower amounts.
  • Damage to tissue in the intestines of infants that causes the tissue to die (necrotizing enterocolitis; NEC). Research shows that giving preterm infants 0.5 mL of a product containing lutein and zeaxanthin (LUTEINofta, SOOFT Italia SpA) by mouth once daily does not prevent necrotizing enterocolitis.
  • An eye disorder in premature infants that can lead to blindness (retinopathy of prematurity). Research shows that giving preterm infants 0.5 mL or 1.8 mL/kg body weight of a product containing lutein and zeaxanthin (LUTEINofta, SOOFT Italia SpA) by mouth once daily does not prevent retinopathy of prematurity.
  • An eye disease that affects the retina (retinitis pigmentosa). Most research shows that taking lutein by mouth does not improve vision or other symptoms in people with retinitis pigmentosa.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). Early research suggests that people who eat more lutein as part of their diet have a lower risk of developing ALS compared to people who eat lower amounts of lutein.
  • Eye strain (asthenopia). Early research shows that taking a combination supplement containing lutein reduces eye strain. The effect of lutein alone on eye strain is unclear.
  • Breast cancer. Research suggests that higher levels of lutein in the blood are linked with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Cervical cancer. Early research suggests that lower intake of lutein as part of the diet is not linked with an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • An inherited condition that causes vision loss (choroideremia). Early research suggests that taking 20 mg of lutein daily for 6 months does not improve vision in people with choroideremia.
  • Mental function. Some research shows that taking that taking 10 mg of lutein plus 2 mg of zeaxanthin does not improve speaking or memory in older people. However, other early research suggests that taking 12 mg of lutein with or without 800 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 4 months can improve speaking and memory in older women.
  • Colon and rectal cancer. There are conflicting results about whether diets containing higher amounts of lutein can reduce the risk of developing colon or rectal cancer.
  • Diabetes. Some research suggests that low blood levels of lutein or other carotenoids are linked with blood sugar problems. In theory, taking lutein might reduce the risk of developing diabetes. However, other research suggests that increasing lutein intake in the diet does not reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Cancer of the esophagus. Early research suggests that high amounts of lutein in the diet are linked with a decreased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
  • Muscle soreness after exercise. Some research suggests that taking a combination product that contains lutein (BioAstin) daily for 3 weeks before exercise does not reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
  • Lung cancer. Some early evidence suggests that low blood levels of lutein are linked with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. However, other research shows that taking lutein does not affect the risk of developing or dying from lung cancer.
  • Parkinson's disease. Early research suggests that high amounts of lutein in the diet are not linked with a decreased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia). Some research suggests that high blood levels of lutein are linked with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy. It is not clear if taking lutein supplements lowers the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Prostate cancer. Early research shows that low blood levels of lutein are not linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Respiratory infections. Early research shows that high blood levels of lutein are not linked with a decreased risk of respiratory infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lutein for these uses.

How does it work?

Lutein is one of two major carotenoids found as a color pigment in the human eye (macula and retina). It is thought to function as a light filter, protecting the eye tissues from sunlight damage.

Are there safety concerns?

Lutein is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Consuming 6.9-11.7 mg/day of lutein as part of the diet appears to be safe. Lutein supplements have been used safely in studies in doses up to 15 mg daily for up to 2 years. Taking up to 20 mg of lutein both from the diet and supplements seems to be safe.

Children: Lutein is LIKELY SAFE when used appropriately. A specific product (LUTEINofta, SOOFT Italia SpA) containing lutein has been safely used in infants for 36 weeks.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lutein is LIKELY SAFE when used in the amounts found in food.

Cystic fibrosis: People with cystic fibrosis might not absorb some carotenoids from food very well, and often have low blood levels of lutein. How much the body absorbs from lutein supplementation might also be decreased in people with cystic fibrosis.

Skin cancer: There is some concern that higher blood levels of lutein are linked to slightly increased risk of skin cancer in people at high risk who also have a history of skin cancer.

Are there interactions with medications?

It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.

Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Beta-carotene
Using beta-carotene along with lutein may reduce the amount of lutein that the body can absorb. The lutein may reduce or increase the amount of beta-carotene the body can absorb.
Vitamin E
Taking lutein supplements might decrease how much vitamin E the body absorbs. In theory, taking lutein and vitamin E together might decrease the effectiveness of vitamin E.

Are there interactions with foods?

Olestra
Using the fat substitute Olestra lowers blood lutein concentrations in healthy people.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD): For preventing AMD, about 6-12 mg of lutein daily, either through diet or supplementation has been used. For reducing symptoms of AMD, 10-20 mg daily has been used. For reducing symptoms, 10-12 mg of lutein daily has been used.
  • For cataracts: For preventing cataracts, about 6-12 mg of lutein daily, either through diet or supplementation has been used. For reducing symptoms, 15 mg of lutein three times weekly or 10 mg of lutein plus 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily has been used.
There is 44 mg of lutein per cup of cooked kale, 26 mg per cup of cooked spinach, and 3 mg per cup of broccoli.

Other names

All-E-Lutein, All-E-Zeaxanthin, All-E-3'-dehydro-lutein, Beta,epsilon-carotene-3,3'-diol, Carotenoid, Caroténoïde, E-Lutein, Luteina, Lutéine, Lutéine Synthétique, Synthetic Lutein, Xanthophyll, Xanthophylle, Zeaxanthin, Zéaxanthine.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 11/03/2017