Lutein is a yellow carotenoid pigment produced by plants, and found in the eye, specifically in the macula, the small, central area covering the retina. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant believed to protect the eye and optic nerves, as a filter against damaging blue light and to prevent free radical damage to the delicate structures in the back of the eye. Thus, it is thought to prevent age-related macular degeneration; prevent glaucoma and cataracts; and support normal eye health.

Lutein is a xanthophyll, a subgroup in the carotene plant family, which consist of over 600 phytochemicals derived from C5 isoprene, known as the carotenoid pigments. These pigments give yellow, green or orange coloration to vegetables and fruits and they are precursors for Vitamin A. High dietary intake of lutein-rich fruits and vegetables has been associated with a significant reduction in macular degeneration - the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 65. For example, in research studies, individuals with the highest spinach consumption reduce their risk of developing ARMD by almost 90%. Dietary lutein is considered an essential micronutrient for normal vision. Lutein supplementation may be beneficial for the management of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.

What is Lutein?
Other names
Luteine; trans-lutein; 4-[18-(4-Hydroxy-
nonaenyl]-3,5,5-trimethyl- cyclohex-2-en-1-ol

Lutein is called a carotenoid vitamin. It is related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. Foods rich in lutein include broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, and squash. Lutein is absorbed best when it is taken with a high-fat meal.

How is it Made?
Lutein is present in plants as fatty-acid esters, with one or two fatty acids bound to the two hydroxyl-groups. For this reason, saponification (de-esterfication) of lutein esters to yield free lutein may yield lutein in any ratio from 1:1 to 1:2 molar ratio with the saponifying fatty acid. Lutein is isomeric with zeaxanthin, differing only in the placement of one double bond.

Where is it Found?
Lutein is naturally found in egg yolk, and several plants including some flowers, red peppers, collard greens, kale, leeks, peas, romaine lettuce, mustard and spinach.

Foods Containing Lutein

Foods (100 grams or 1/2 cup)

Lutein or Zeaxanthin (micrograms)

Apple, raw


Apricot, canned, drained


Asparagus, raw


Avocado, raw


Beet greens


Broccoli, cooked


Brussel Sprouts


Cabbage, red, raw


Carrots, cooked or raw


Chicory leaf , raw




Collard greens




Cress leaf , raw


Cucumber pickle




Egg yolk, one


(200-300 % more bioavailable than vegetable sources)



Green beans


Green olives


Green peas


Iceburg lettuce




Kiwi fruit, raw


Leaf lettuce




Mustard greens






Onion, yellow, raw







Peach, canned, drained


Peach, dried


Pear, raw


Pepper, green


Pepper, yellow


Pepper, red


Plum, raw


Prune, dried




Romaine lettuce




Spinach, cooked & drained


Spinach, raw


Squash, summer


Squash, winter , cooked


Swiss chard, raw




Tomato, raw


Tomato paste, canned


Turnip, raw


Watermelon, raw


See product related video:
video icon Feed the Eye (video module - 4.36 minutes)
video icon Essential Lutein (video module - 3.21 minutes)
video icon Lutein: More than Meets the Eye  (video module - 2.40 minutes)
Product related PDF file
Functions of Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein - A Powerful Antioxidant
Lutein & Zeaxanthin For Healthy Eyes

Lutein Improves Cataracts

Benefits / Uses
Eye Benefits
Lutein and zeaxanthin do more than give plants their pretty colors. These two compounds are found in large amounts in the lens and retina of our eyes.
Here they function as antioxidants to potentially help protect our eyes from damage caused by unstable atoms known as free radicals, which can interact with and break down healthy tissue.

Lutein and zeaxanthin may also help to protect our eyes by filtering high-energy blue light. By filtering blue light, the pigment protects underlying cell layers from potential light damage.

Skin Benefits
Lutein, a nutrient known to be involved in eye health, has now been found to also play a role in the health of the skin. Reporting at the Beyond Beauty Conference in Paris, lead researcher Professor Pierfrancesco Morganti, professor of applied cosmetic dermatology at the University of Naples, Italy, explained that either oral or topical lutein improves skin hydration, elasticity and lipid content.

Although lutein has been extensively investigated for its potential role in guarding against age-related macular degeneration, some earlier studies also have shown that a daily lutein supplement may increase the skin's natural antioxidant system and protect against damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Cardiovascular Health

Lutein and zeaxanthin inhibit lipid peroxidation, a likely factor in the etiology of both retinal and cardiovascular disease. The presence of adhesion molecules on endothelial cell surfaces is a marker of atherosclerosis pathogenesis. In vitro research has demonstrated lutein incubation with cultured endothelial cells effectively inhibits the expression of these adhesion molecules.

Skin Cancer
Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and its incidence is rapidly increasing. Risk factors include sun exposure and having a fair complexion that burns easily.

One of the largest case-controlled studies investigating the association between diet and melanoma reported that high intake of lutein from fruits and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of melanoma. Scientists believe these xanthophyll carotenoids prevent melanoma by protecting the skin against sun damage. Because tissue levels rather than plasma levels of xanthophylls provide this protection, eating lutein-containing foods on the day of sun exposure may not necessarily be protective, but daily consumption of such foods will be beneficial.

Breast Cancer
Because lutein and zeaxanthin are deposited in breast tissue, scientists are studying possible associations between breast cancer prevention and xanthophylls. While the study findings to date are inconclusive, some researchers have reported that lutein and zeaxanthin can protect against breast cancer.

A long-term study of 83,234 healthy women evaluated the relationship between breast cancer and carotenoid intakes. The researchers found that intake of lutein and zeaxanthin from food and supplements may reduce the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women. The association was particularly strong among women with a higher risk for breast cancer, as determined by a family history of the disease or alcohol use (defined as at least one alcoholic drink per day). The authors concluded that consuming fruits and vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women. Similarly, another study of 540 women found an increased risk of breast cancer in women with very low intakes of lutein due to a poor diet or lack of supplementation.

Colon Cancer
Korean researchers have found alga-extracted carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce colon cancer growths.
The carotenoids extracted from two popular Asian algae forms - Chlorella ellipsoidea (CEE) and Chlorella vulgaris (CVE) - blocked growth of human colon cancer cells, the scientists found.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, more commonly known for eye health benefits, were not the only xanthophylls present in the algae but it was suggested they were the most bioactive. They also found the extracts had a more powerful anti-cancer effect when used in combination than in isolation.

It appears that diets providing about 6 milligrams (mg) of lutein per day can reduce ARMD prevalence by nearly half. However, the consumption of these foods has dropped more than 20% in the two groups at highest risk for ARMD (women and elderly).

Possible Side-Effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions
Lutein is likely safe for most people. Even high dietary lutein intake of 6.9-11.7 mg/day appears to be safe. Lutein supplements 10 mg/day for a year have also been safely used.

Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lutein is likely safe when used in the amounts found in food.

Research Studies / References

arw MSDS at Carl Roth (Lutein Rotichrom, German).

arw Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, OED

arw Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

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arw Landrum, J., et al. Serum and macular pigment response to 2.4 mg dosage of lutein. in ARVO. 2000.

arw Berendschot TT, Goldbohm RA, Klöpping WA, van de Kraats J, van Norel J, van Norren D (October 2000). "Influence of lutein supplementation on macular pigment, assessed with two objective techniques". Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 41 (11): 3322-6. PMID 11006220.

arw Aleman TS, Duncan JL, Bieber ML, et al. (July 2001). "Macular pigment and lutein supplementation in retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome". Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 42 (8): 1873-81. PMID 11431456.

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arw Johnson EJ, Neuringer M, Russell RM, Schalch W, Snodderly DM (February 2005). "Nutritional manipulation of primate retinas, III: Effects of lutein or zeaxanthin supplementation on adipose tissue and retina of xanthophyll-free monkeys". Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 46 (2): 692-702. doi:10.1167/iovs.02-1192. PMID 15671301.

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arw WHO/FAO Codex Alimentarius General Standard for Food Additives

arw, Study finds spinach, eggs ward off cause of blindness

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arw "Associations between age-related nuclear cataract and lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and serum in the Carotenoids in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, an Ancillary Study of the Women's Health Initiative.".


arw FOD025C The Global Market for Carotenoids, BCC Research