The Health Benefits of Lutein

The So-Called "Eye Vitamin"

Lutein is a carotenoid found in the macula and retina of the human eye. Often referred to as the "eye vitamin," it is thought to work as a light filter and protect the eyes from sun damage.

Lutein is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, especially those with deep green, orange, and yellow colorings, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers. Egg yolks also contain high levels of lutein. Lutein is also available in supplement form.

This article will review lutein and its possible uses, side effects, where to get it, and more.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF. 

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Verywell / Gary Ferster 

Uses of Lutein

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Lutein supplements are typically used in alternative medicine for eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Known to be found in the retina and lens of the eye, lutein is thought to protect the eye from injury induced by free radicals–chemical byproducts that have been shown to damage cells and contribute to the development of certain diseases. Lutein may also act as a filter for harmful blue light and help prevent damage from the sun.

Lutein supplements are sometimes marketed to prevent other conditions, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and heart ​disease. However, there is not enough research to support this.

While few studies have examined the health effects of lutein supplements, there's some evidence that lutein supplements may have a role in eye health.

Age-Related Eye Disease

Age-related eye diseases include cataracts and macular degeneration, which may lead to blindness.

Lutein supplements may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but there is not enough research to support using lutein supplements for cataracts.

A meta-analysis concluded that a dietary intake of 10 to 20 milligrams (mg) of lutein daily for over six months can significantly improve macular pigment optical density (MPOD) and vision clarity in AMD patients. MPOD is an important measure of vision health

Another meta-analysis found that lutein and zeaxanthin combined with omega-3 fatty acids may also prevent the deterioration of vision and progression of AMD. The authors state that further research should be initiated in this area.

However, a systematic review published in the Cochrane Database concluded that while antioxidant supplementation may have a modest effect in slowing the progression of AMD, lutein and zeaxanthin have little or no effect.

There is no evidence that antioxidant, lutein, or zeaxanthin supplementation can prevent or delay the onset of AMD. Rather, the research has focused on slowing the progression of AMD once it has been diagnosed.

A large multi-center trial referred to as the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) has published several results on the effects of vitamin supplementation for eye disease.

In one of the publications, the AREDS trial found that daily supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin did not significantly affect rates of cataract surgery or vision loss.

What Are the Side Effects of Lutein?

Lutein and lutein supplements are likely safe when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts.

Consuming up to 20 milligrams daily appears safe and without side effects.

If your lutein supplement combines various vitamins, then the possible side effects of those components must also be considered.


Lutein is likely safe in pregnant and breastfeeding people when taken in amounts similar to what you would get from food.

Lutein is also likely safe in healthy children when given in appropriate amounts. Always discuss with your child's pediatrician before providing supplements.

If lutein is part of a combined supplement designed for eye health, read the label and discuss the risks and benefits of all ingredients with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

Dosage: How Much Lutein Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

For adults, 10 to 20 mg of lutein daily has been safely taken for up to three years.

These amounts and more can be obtained easily through the diet. For example, 1 cup of cooked spinach provides 26 mg of lutein.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Lutein?

There is not a lot of information on toxicity with lutein.

High doses of lutein could cause a condition called carotenemia, or yellowing of the skin, which is harmless and goes away after you stop taking the supplement.


There are no known interactions with lutein and medications.

Taking lutein with beta-carotene or vitamin E may reduce how much of these vitamins the body will absorb.

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review the supplement label with your primary healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How To Store Lutein

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper storage, and be sure to store all supplements and medications out of reach of children.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I take lutein daily?

    There is not enough evidence to say that taking lutein daily will provide you with any benefit. If you have already been diagnosed with AMD, discuss with your healthcare provider whether supplementing lutein is appropriate.

  • Which is better, lutein or zeaxanthin?

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are both carotenoids found in the human eye. Both have a similar protective role, but zeaxanthin may be a more potent antioxidant.

Sources of Lutein & What to Look For

To increase your lutein intake without using lutein supplements, include lutein-rich foods in your daily diet.

Some examples include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Cabbage
  • Green beans
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Egg yolks
  • Durum wheat

If you're considering using lutein supplements, talk to your healthcare provider about selecting a supplement and daily dosage that will suit your health needs.


Lutein is a carotenoid found in the human eye. It is also available in the foods we eat, such as spinach and egg yolk, and in supplements. Research has looked at the effects of lutein supplementation on age-related eye diseases with mixed results.

To be sure you are getting enough lutein, include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. While lutein supplementation may have a role in delaying the progression of AMD, more research in this area is needed.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Abdel-Aal el-SM, Akhtar H, Zaheer K, Ali R. Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1169-1185. doi:10.3390/nu5041169

  2. Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, et al. The effect of lutein on eye and extra-eye health. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1321. doi:10.3390/nu10091321

  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Lutein.

  4. Feng L, Nie K, Jiang H, Fan W. Effects of lutein supplementation in age-related macular degenerationPLoS One. 2019;14(12):e0227048. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0227048

  5. Csader S, Korhonen S, Kaarniranta K, Schwab U. The effect of dietary supplementations on delaying the progression of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysisNutrients. 2022;14(20):4273. doi:10.3390/nu14204273

  6. Evans JR, Lawrenson JG. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for slowing the progression of age-related macular degenerationCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;7(7):CD000254. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000254.pub4

  7. Evans JR, Lawrenson JG. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for preventing age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;7(7):CD000253. Published 2017 Jul 30. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000253.pub4

  8. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group, Chew EY, SanGiovanni JP, et al. Lutein/zeaxanthin for the treatment of age-related cataract: AREDS2 randomized trial report no. 4. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013;131(7):843-850. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.4412

  9. MedlinePlus. Lutein.

  10. Poison Control. Safety and benefits of lutein.

  11. Murillo AG, Hu S, Fernandez ML. Zeaxanthin: metabolism, properties, and antioxidant protection of eyes, heart, liver, and skin. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(9):390. doi:10.3390/antiox8090390

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

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