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What is lutein? Why do we need it?
Lutein is a yellow-colored pigment that belongs to the carotenoid
family. In humans, it is found in the eyes, in the central
area of the retina called the macula, where a persons
visual perception is most acute.
Lutein reduces age-related macular degeneration and helps
filter out damaging light. One study conducted in 1994 found
that adults with the highest dietary intake of lutein had
a 57% decreased risk of macular degeneration compared to people
with the lowest intake. A similar trial conducted in 1992
found a link between intake of lutein and an increased risk
Lutein also functions as an antioxidant. Anecdotal evidence
suggests it helps protect skin cells against ultraviolet radiation
and may fight several forms of cancer, including those that
affect the colon, rectum, breast, lungs and prostate.
How much lutein should I take?
People whose eyes appear to be better protected from macular
degeneration have taken a minimum of 6mg per day. Many practitioners
recommend that lutein supplements be taken with food to improve
What are some good sources of lutein?
What forms are available?
Black currant fruit; collard greens; egg yolks; kale; leeks;
peas; romaine lettuce; and spinach are all excellent sources
of lutein. In addition to food sources, lutein is also available
as a dietary supplement in capsule or tablet form.
What can happen if I don't get enough
lutein? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any
side-effects I should be aware of?
Deficiency and toxicity levels have yet to be established
for lutein; however, studies show that people who eat more
lutein-containing foods are at a decreased risk of macular
degeneration. No adverse effects from lutein have been reported;
there is currently no evidence of drug interactions with lutein.
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- Dagnelie G, et al. Lutein improves visual
function in some patients with retinal degeneration: a pilot
study via the Internet. Optometry 2000;71(3).
- Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Saddon JM,
et al. Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women.
A prospective study. Br Med J 1992;305:335-9.
- Johnson CC, Gorell JM, Rybicki BA, Sanders
K, Peterson EL. Adult nutrient intake as a risk factor for
Parkinson's disease. Int J Epidemiol Dec 1999;28(6):1102-9.
- Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al.
Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced
age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 1994;272:1413-20.
- Sujak A, et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin
as protectors of lipid membranes against oxidative damage:
the structural aspects. Arch Biochem Biophys 1999;371(2):301-307.