Other Name(s):

luteol, xanthophyll

General Description:

Lutein is a yellow pigment that belongs to a group of substances called carotenoids. Carotenoids are believed to play an important role in preventing or slowing the appearance of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness among people over 60 years of age.

Lutein was first isolated from egg yolk and is one of the pigments in the petals of yellow flowers and bird feathers.

Lutein and another closely associated carotenoid called zeaxanthin are the most commonly occurring carotenoids in nature.

Medically Valid Uses:

There are currently no specific indications for lutein or zeaxanthin. However, there is mounting evidence that lutein, zeaxanthin and other carotenoids such as beta-carotene play a role in preventing or slowing the appearance of macular degeneration.

Lutein and zeaxanthin work by protecting the retina of the eye from the effects of aging and ultraviolet light exposure. They function as antioxidants in the retina and may protect the fragile, retinal vessels from oxidative damage that may lead to sclerotic changes in the lining of the vessels and subsequent macular degeneration. As pigments, they may also block damaging wavelengths of light from being absorbed by sensitive retinal structures.

These carotenoids may protect an individual from developing macular degeneration, but may not necessarily treat the condition once it occurs. Therefore, the diet must contain adequate amounts of lutein on a daily basis for years before the onset of macular degeneration to achieve the greatest benefit.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Lutein is claimed to possibly help reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and reduce the risk of cataracts.

Dosing Format:

A specific dosage for lutein has not been established. A diet high in vegetables and fruits, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, should supply adequate amounts.

Supplement doses range from 5 to 30 mg per day.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

There are no known side effects, or significant food or drug interactions associated with lutein at typical dietary intake levels.

Additional Information:

Of all the pigments in the macula (the portion of the retina responsible for the most acute vision), lutein is present in the highest concentration. The significance of this is still unknown. Although conversion of carotenoids to different forms takes place in the retina, lutein remains the most abundant form.

Lutein, probably better known by chemists as xanthophyll, is one of a large number of naturally occurring carotenoids. It is an isomer of zeaxanthin, having an identical molecular weight and formula but a different configuration.

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  1. [No authors listed]. Risk factors for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Arch Ophthalmol. 1992 Dec;110(12):1701-8.

  2. Khachik F, Bernstein PS, Garland DL. Identification of lutein and zeaxanthin oxidation products in human and monkey retinas. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997 Aug;38(9):1802-11.

  3. Richer S. Multicenter ophthalmic and nutritional age-related macular degeneration study--part 1: design, subjects and procedures. J Am Optom Assoc. 1996 Jan;67(1):12-29.

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  7. Yeum KJ, Taylor A, Tang G, Russell RM. Measurement of carotenoids, retinoids, and tocopherols in human lenses. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 Dec;36(13):2756-61.

  8. Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Klein BE, Klein R, Palta M, Bowen P, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M. Serum carotenoids and tocopherols and severity of nuclear and cortical opacities. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 Feb;36(2):276-88.

  9. Landrum JT, Bone RA, Joa H, Kilburn MD, Moore LL, Sprague KE. A one year study of the macular pigment: the effect of 140 days of a lutein supplement. Exp Eye Res. 1997 Jul;65(1):57-62.

  10. Snodderly DM. Evidence for protection against age-related macular degeneration by carotenoids and antioxidant vitamins. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Dec;62(6 Suppl):1448S-1461S.

  11. Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Klein R, Klein BE, Bowen P, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Palta M. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population- based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol. 1995 Dec;113(12):1518-23.

  12. Bone RA, Landrum JT, Friedes LM, Gomez CM, Kilburn MD, Menendez E, Vidal I, Wang W. Distribution of lutein and zeaxanthin stereoisomers in the human retina. Exp Eye Res. 1997 Feb;64(2):211-8.

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  14. Khachik F, Bernstein PS, Garland DL. Identification of lutein and zeaxanthin oxidation products in human and monkey retinas. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. (1997 Aug;38(9):1802-11.

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