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Can a Lutein Supplement Save Your Eyes?

Why you're better off getting lutein from food.

“Lutein and its twin, zeaxan­thin, are the only carot­enoids that are found in the lens and in the macula, which is the central part of the retina and therefore most vulnerable to light damage,” says Tufts Univer­sity’s Elizabeth Johnson.

“These two carotenoids absorb harmful visi­ble light from the sun and protect the lens, retina, and other eye tissues.”Lutein

So should you take a lutein supplement to help preserve your vision? Some key evidence:


In studies that track the eating habits of thousands of men and women, people with higher levels of lutein plus zeaxanthin in their diets have a lower risk of cataracts.

But in the only good study that tested supple­ments, people with macular degeneration who were given lutein and zeaxanthin every day for five years had no lower risk of cata­racts. The amounts were 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin.

But there was one exception in this study. Those who were not getting much lutein and zeaxanthin from their diets lowered their risk of cataracts by 30 percent if they took the supplements.

Detecting contrasts

“Having sufficient lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye has long been suspected to enhance vision,” says the University of Wisconsin’s Julie Mares.

“Several studies suggest that lutein supplements improve the ability to detect contrasts between colors or intensities, which can be especially difficult in dim lighting.”

Supplements or food?

But Mares stops short of recommending that people take lutein supplements. “Getting lutein and zeaxanthin from a plant-rich diet with lots of green leafy vege­tables is one of the best ways to preserve your eye health,”she notes. “What’s protective is probably those carotenoids in combination with other components of the foods, so you’re likely better off getting them from food, not pills.”

Since lutein and zeaxanthin are fat-soluble, make sure your meal includes some vegetable oil or a food with fat, adds Elizabeth Johnson.

Here are some of the best food sources of lutein:

Looking for Lutein











Sources: Arch. Ophthalmol. 126: 102, 2008; JAMA Ophthalmol. 131: 843, 2013; 3 Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 55: 8583, 2014.

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Add Your Comments


  1. bevp3
    Posted April 25, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder if taking a supplement at the same time as eating a meal with greens would make the supplement more effective. Just a thought. Next….a study – hopefully.

  2. T.
    Posted April 25, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Hello, So people with macular degeneration had no lower risk of cataracts, but did the lutein and xeaxenthin supplement have a positive effect on their disease ? I would appreciate your comment. Thank you.

    • Anshel
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      There is no “reversal” or stopping AMD; these supplements (and other antioxidants) just slowed the progression in the late stages of the disease. No studies have shown anything that will prevent, stop or reverse AMD (but it’s worth looking into!)

  3. Michael
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh, you mean take your supplementary Lutein with a donut? Hmmm, ok… 😉 Better than kale…

    • Anshel
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Nice try, Michael. We all wish it was that easy- supplements replace donuts (hmmm, there might be a new study to develop!!!!). I’m sure Dr. Johnson would walk back that “vegetable oil” suggestion since we get too much of it in our diets as it is. However, they SHOULD be taken with “fatty food”, since they are fat-soluble.

  4. Bill
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    This is great information about cataracts. Is there any study data regarding Lutein and/or Zeaxanthin Supplements effect for the prevention of Macular Degeneration? Thank you very much.

    • Anshel
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      No Bill, just slowing down the progression of the disease….

  5. Leonard
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    If you have floaters try a higher supplement like, 20 mg of Lutein and 800 mcg of Zeaxanthin. This worked for me.

  6. Pat
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Great! The chart is just blurry enough to make me think I *am* going blind!

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