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 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.
Likely Effective for:
- Preventing lutein deficiency.
Possibly Effective for:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Consuming lutein as part of the diet might help to prevent AMD, but it’s not known whether taking lutein supplements works as well. There is also some information that taking lutein supplements (10 mg per day for 12 months) might help decrease symptoms of AMD, but more research is needed. Lutein supplements don’t seem to keep AMD from getting worse.
- Reducing the risk of developing eye cataracts, when high amounts of lutein are obtained from the diet. It is not known if lutein supplements offer the same benefit.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
- An eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Limited research suggests that lutein might be helpful in the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa.
- Colon cancer. People who get a lot of lutein from their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing colon cancer. But it’s not known whether lutein supplements provide the same benefit.
- Breast cancer. Higher levels of lutein in the blood seem to be linked with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Lutein is LIKELY SAFE for most people. Even high dietary lutein intake of 6.9-11.7 mg/day appears to be safe. Lutein supplements 10 mg/day for a year have also been safely used.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lutein is LIKELY SAFE when used in the amounts found in food.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- 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.