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Should I Take a Lutein Supplement? Lutein has been studied for its potential benefits in eye health.

Lutein is a type of carotenoid called a xanthophyll, known for its antiinflammatory properties. The main dietary sources of lutein include egg yolks, fruits, and vegetables, particularly leafy greens. One could say lutein's "claim to fame" is for its effect on visual function and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lutein and its "partner" carotenoid, zeaxanthin, are the only antioxidants located in the eye. Studies that followed a large number of people over time found intakes of lutein/zeaxanthin ranging from 3-5 milligrams (mg)/day to reduce the risk of early to late AMD. However, American adults typically only consume approximately 1-2 mg lutein/day. Low consumption of green leafy vegetables and fruit contributes to the risk of AMD. Furthermore, the human body does not naturally make lutein (or zeaxanthin), meaning it must come from the diet and/or supplements. Therefore, taking a lutein supplement may be necessary to reach an intake level that promotes its health benefits.

How much to take? According to a large clinical trial looking at supplementation of lutein on eye health, supplementing 10 mg lutein/day with 2 mg zeaxanthin/day slowed AMD progression in people with low levels of lutein. Furthermore, lutein supplementation has shown to improve visual performance in AMD patients, cataract patients, and even those in good health. No major adverse effects of lutein supplementation have been found except some skin yellowing seen in people with intermediate AMD who consumed lutein and zeaxanthin over 5 years. Overall, there is strong evidence that lutein is safe up to 20 mg/day, but that it is effective at approximately 6 mg/day. To date there is no recommended intake of lutein, but because of its bioactive eye health benefits, there is a push to create a recommended daily intake for lutein. When taking a lutein supplement, it is important to find the free form in addition to the esterified form. Although both are bioavailable, the free form of lutein is more absorbable, meaning it can get to the bloodstream more quickly and easily. In addition to eye health, lutein has shown to have many other health benefits including improvement in cognitive brain functioning, maternal and infant nutrition, and fertility. However, more research is needed in these areas.

The bottom line is lutein may help improve eye health in addition to having other anti-inflammatory health benefits. Therefore, eating more dietary sources of lutein and/or taking a lutein supplement can help one reap its healthful benefits. Remember to always check with your physician before starting any new dietary or supplemental regimen. H

--Natalia Schroeder, PhD, RDN

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Caption: Wondering about eye health? Talk with your doctor about the use of lutein in your regimen.

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Title Annotation:You Should Know
Author:Schroeder, Natalia
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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