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Lutein

What is it?

Lutein is called a carotenoid vitamin. 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, and retinitis pigmentosa.

Some people also use it for preventing colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

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 is effective for preventing lutein deficiency.

Possibly effective for...

  • An eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Population studies suggest that people who consume higher amounts of lutein in their diet have a reduced risk of developing AMD. However, increasing dietary intake of lutein might not reduce the risk of AMD in people who already have a high intake of lutein. Taking lutein supplements for up to 12 months can improve some symptoms of AMD, but it does not seem to prevent AMD from becoming worse. Research on the use of lutein together with other ingredients shows conflicting results.
  • Cataracts. Some studies suggest that eating higher amounts of lutein might decrease the risk of developing cataracts. Also, early research suggests that taking lutein three times weekly for up to 2 years can improve vision in elderly people with cataracts.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Clogged arteries (coronary heart disease). Research suggests that eating higher amounts of lutein does not lower the risk of developing clogged arteries.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Breast cancer. Some evidence 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 low amounts of lutein in the diet are 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 early research suggests that taking 12 mg of lutein plus 800 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 4 months can improve speaking and memory in older women.
  • Colon and rectal cancer. There is 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.
  • Muscle soreness after exercise. Some evidence suggests that taking a combination product that contains lutein (BioAstin) daily for 3 weeks before exercise does not reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
  • Eye strain (asthenopia). Early research suggests that some taking lutein along with other supplements might reduce eye strain. The effect of lutein alone on eye strain is unclear.
  • Lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that low blood levels of lutein are linked with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. However, other evidence suggests that taking lutein does not affect the risk of developing or dying from lung cancer.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy. 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. Some research shows that low blood levels of lutein are not linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Respiratory infections. Some research shows that high blood levels of lutein are not linked with a decreased risk of respiratory infections
  • An eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Some early evidence suggests that lutein might be helpful in the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa. However, other evidence suggests that lutein does not improve vision or other symptoms of this eye disease.
  • Eye problems in premature infants (retinopathy of prematurity). Early research suggests that lutein does not decrease the risk or severity of retinopathy of prematurity.
  • 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.

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.

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 reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD): 6 mg of lutein per day, either through diet or using supplements. People consuming 6.9 to 11.7 mg of lutein per day through diet had the lowest risk of developing AMD and cataracts.
  • For reducing symptoms of AMD: 10 mg per day of lutein supplements.
There is 44 mg of lutein per cup of cooked kale, 26 mg/cup of cooked spinach, and 3 mg/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 - 08/27/2015