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Lutein Keeps Your Eyes Bright and Sharp

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Macular Degeneration Lutein Retina Diet

Lutein has been found to play an important role in protecting our eyes and vision. It appears to work in two ways; acting as a natural sun block and neutralizing free radicals that can damage the eye.

What It Is

Lutein is a member of a family of substances known as carotenoids, which have powerful antioxidant properties. It is found in leafy, dark green vegetables.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among those 65 years and older. An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from Age- related macular degeneration (AMD), 40% of these are over the age of 75. As well as aging, macular degeneration is caused by cigarette smoking, alcohol, a fatty diet and exposure to ultraviolet light.

How Lutein Works

Lutein is an antioxidant that protects cells against damage from naturally occurring chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals are singular or groups of atoms, which can cause damage to cells, impairing the immune system and leading to infectious or sometimes degenerative disease, including damage to the eyes and vision. Because one of the main causes of macular degeneration appears to be sun damage to the sensitive tissue, lutein, acting as a natural eye shade, may protect the retina against too much light.


A preliminary study published by the American Optometrist Association was conducted in 1999 to evaluate the relationship between dietary intake of carotenoids and the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

The results showed that people who ate spinach or took lutein supplements showed improvement of some of the early signs of macular degeneration. Participants demonstrated short-term positive effects in visual function in one or both eyes. A further report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people who ate foods rich in lutein up to five days per week were significantly less likely to develop macular degeneration as those consuming them once per month were.

Studies conducted by Landrum et al in which participants consumed 6 mg of lutein (along with its co-nutrient zeaxanthin) for five months showed significantly increased macular pigment density. This protects the eyes from harmful blue wavelength light which can lead to macular degeneration. Results suggest that lutein is beneficial to eye health in general and could also significantly lower the risk of age related macular degeneration.

How to Take It

Though lutein is not an essential nutrient it can easily be obtained from food. To ensure beneficial effects you may need to modify your diet. Green vegetables are the best source especially spinach, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, leeks and peas. At present intake of about 6mg daily of lutein is considered adequate. This amounts to consumption of 100-200grams of spinach daily.


Though lutein is a normal part if the diet there has been no formal evaluation of its safety when taken as a concentrated supplement. Maximum safe dosages have not been established for pregnant or nursing women, children, or sufferers of liver or kidney disease.

The Bottom Line

Controlled studies are needed in which people are given pure lutein and others a placebo, as yet these have not been performed.

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