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Table of Contents > Articles > Lutein and Vision: Is There More to ...
Lutein and Vision: Is There More to Spinach Than Popeye-sized Muscles?

Lutein is an antioxidant found in plants. Like beta-carotene, it is a carotenoid—a micronutrient responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables. Lutein is found in dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, and red or yellow vegetables and fruits. Lutein has received some attention for its apparent ability to help people with certain eye conditions. Most of the attention has focused on macular degeneration, although recently it's also been suggested that lutein supplements can improve vision in people who have retinitis pigmentosa and/or related retinal degeneration.

A 1994 study looked at the relationship between dietary intake of carotenoids and certain vitamins (A, C, and E) and the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible blindness among adults. The researchers found that the more carotenoids in the diet, the lower the risk for age-related macular degeneration. In particular, lutein and another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, were most strongly associated with a reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration. The authors of this study concluded that increasing consumption of foods rich in certain carotenoids, in particular those found in dark green, leafy vegetables, may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

A more recent study looked at the relationship between lutein supplements and other eye conditions that are characterized by deteriorating retina. For about 6 months, 16 people (recruited through the Internet) took 20 to 40 mg a day of lutein. Lutein supplementation improved visual sharpness and increased the central visual-field area (particularly when combined with vitamin A and/or beta-carotene supplements). However, this study design does not stand up to rigorous scientific standards. The investigators themselves suggest that larger, placebo-controlled studies are needed to confirm and further investigate these findings.

Although more research is needed, lutein supplementation (6 to 40 mg a day) does appear promising, particularly for macular degeneration. Since some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications, be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you.


Retinitis pigmentosa: a disease characterized by degeneration of both retinas; it begins in childhood and progresses to blindness by middle age.


Dagnelle G, Zorge IS, McDonald TM. Lutein improves visual function in some patients with retinal degeneration: a pilot study via the Internet. Optometry. 2000;71(3):147-164.

Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA. 1994;272(18):1413-1420.

Review Date: August 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Macular Degeneration
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin E

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