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Lutein (/ˈlt.n/ or /ˈltn/;[2] from Latin luteus meaning "yellow") is a xanthophyll and one of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids. Lutein is synthesized only by plants and like other xanthophylls is found in high quantities in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and yellow carrots. In green plants, xanthophylls act to modulate light energy and serve as non-photochemical quenching agents to deal with triplet chlorophyll (an excited form of chlorophyll), which is overproduced at very high light levels, during photosynthesis. See xanthophyll cycle for this topic.

Luteine - Lutein.svg
Space-filling model of lutein
IUPAC name
Other names
Luteine; trans-lutein; 4-​[18-​(4-​Hydroxy-​2,6,6-​trimethyl-​1-​cyclohexenyl)-​3,7,12,16-​tetramethyloctadeca-​1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17-​nonaenyl]-​3,5,5-​trimethyl-​cyclohex-​2-​en-​1-​ol
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.004.401
E number E161b (colours)
Molar mass 568.871 g/mol
Appearance Red-orange crystalline solid
Melting point 190 °C (374 °F; 463 K)[1]
Solubility in fats Soluble
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
YesY verify (what is YesYN ?)
Infobox references

Lutein is obtained by animals directly or indirectly, from plants. Lutein is apparently[citation needed] employed by animals as an antioxidant and for blue light absorption. Lutein is found in egg yolks and animal fats. In addition to coloring yolks, lutein causes the yellow color of chicken skin and fat, and is used in chicken feed for this purpose. The human retina accumulates lutein and zeaxanthin. The latter predominates at the macula lutea while lutein predominates elsewhere in the retina. There, it may serve as a photoprotectant for the retina from the damaging effects of free radicals produced by blue light. Lutein is isomeric with zeaxanthin, differing only in the placement of one double bond.

The principal natural stereoisomer of lutein is (3R,3′R,6′R)-beta,epsilon-carotene-3,3′-diol. Lutein is a lipophilic molecule and is generally insoluble in water. The presence of the long chromophore of conjugated double bonds (polyene chain) provides the distinctive light-absorbing properties. The polyene chain is susceptible to oxidative degradation by light or heat and is chemically unstable in acids.

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.


As a pigmentEdit

This xanthophyll, like its sister compound zeaxanthin, has primarily been used[clarification needed] as a natural colorant[citation needed] due to its orange-red color. Lutein absorbs blue light and therefore appears yellow at low concentrations and orange-red at high concentrations.

Lutein is also anti angiogenic.[citation needed] It inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).[citation needed]

Lutein was traditionally used in chicken feed to improve the color of broiler chicken skin.[citation needed] Polled consumers viewed yellow chicken skin more favorably than white chicken skin. Such lutein fortification also results in a darker yellow egg yolk. Today the coloring of the egg yolk has become the primary reason for feed fortification. Lutein is not used as a colorant in other foods due to its limited stability, especially in the presence of other dyes.[citation needed]

Role in human eyesEdit

Lutein was found to be concentrated in the macula, a small area of the retina responsible for three-dimensional vision. The hypothesis for the natural concentration is that lutein helps keep the eyes safe from oxidative stress and the high-energy photons of blue light. Various research studies have shown that a direct relationship exists between lutein intake and pigmentation in the eye.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Lutein may play a role in Haidinger's brush,[citation needed] an entoptic phenomenon that allows humans to detect polarized light.

Macular degenerationEdit

Several studies show that an increase in macula pigmentation decreases the risk for eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).[10][11][12] The only randomized clinical trial to demonstrate a benefit for lutein in macular degeneration was a small study, in which the authors concluded that visual function is improved with lutein alone or lutein together with other nutrients and also that more study was needed.[11]

There is epidemiological evidence of a relationship between low plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin, and an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Some studies support the view that supplemental lutein and/or zeaxanthin help protect against AMD.[13]

In 2007, in a six-year study, John Paul SanGiovanni of the National Eye Institute, Maryland, found that lutein and zeaxanthin protect against blindness (macular degeneration), affecting 1.2 million Americans, mostly after age 65. Lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of AMD.[13]

In 2013, findings of the Age-related Eye Disease Study 2 were reported in JAMA; AREDS2 was a five-year study designed to test whether the original AREDS formulation that was shown to reduce progression of age-related macular degeneration by 25 percent would be improved by adding omega-3 fatty acids; adding lutein and zeaxanthin; removing beta-carotene; or reducing zinc.[14] In AREDS2, participants took one of four AREDS formulations: the original AREDS formulation, AREDS formulation with no beta-carotene, AREDS with low zinc, AREDS with no beta-carotene and low zinc.[14] In addition, they took one of four additional supplement or combinations including lutein and zeaxanthin (10 mg and 2 mg), omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 mg), lutein/zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids, or placebo.[14] The study reported that there was no overall additional benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids or lutein and zeaxanthin to the formulation.[14] However, the study did find benefits in two subgroups of participants: those not given beta-carotene, and those who had very little lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets.[14] Removing beta-carotene did not curb the formulation's protective effect against developing advanced AMD, which was important given that high doses of beta-carotene had been linked to higher risk of lung cancers in smokers.[14] It was recommended to replace beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin in future formulations for these reasons.[14]


There is also epidemiological evidence that increasing lutein and zeaxanthin intake lowers the risk of cataract development.[13][15] Consumption of more than 2.4 mg of lutein/zeaxanthin daily from foods and supplements was significantly correlated with reduced incidence of nuclear lens opacities, as revealed from data collected during a 13- to 15-year period in the Nutrition and Vision Project (NVP).[16]

Two meta-analyses confirm a correlation between high diet content or high serum concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin and a decrease in the risk of nuclear cataract, but not cortical or subcapsular cataract.[17][18] There is only one published clinical intervention trial testing for an effect of lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation on cataracts. The AREDS2 trial enrolled subjects at risk for progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration. Overall, the group getting lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg) were NOT less likely to progress to needing cataract surgery. The authors speculated that there may be a cataract prevention benefit for people with low dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, but recommended more research.[19]

Bright Light Sensitivity (Glare)Edit

A 2016 clinical trial presented evidence for improvement in visual performance and decrease in light sensitivity (glare) in subjects taking 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin per day for 12 months.[20]

In nutritionEdit

Lutein is a natural part of human diet when fruits and vegetables are consumed. According to the NHANES 2013-2014 survey, adults in the United States average 1.7 grams per day of lutein and zeaxanthin combined.[citation needed] For individuals lacking sufficient lutein intake, lutein-fortified foods and dietary supplements are available. While no recommended dietary allowance currently exists for lutein, positive health effects have been seen at dietary intake levels of 6–10 mg/day.[21] The only definitive side effect of excess lutein consumption is bronzing of the skin (carotenodermia).

The functional difference between lutein (free form) and lutein esters is not entirely known. It is suggested that the bioavailability is lower for lutein esters, but much debate continues.[22]

As a food additive, lutein has the E number E161b (INS number 161b) and is extracted from the petals of marigold (Tagetes erecta).[23] It is approved for use in the EU[24] and Australia and New Zealand[25] but is banned in the USA.[citation needed]

Some foods are considered good sources of the nutrients:[13][26][27][28]

Product Lutein/zeaxanthin (micrograms per hundred grams)
nasturtium (yellow flowers, lutein levels only) 45,000 [28]
kale (raw) 39,550
kale (cooked) 18,246
dandelion leaves (raw) 13,610
nasturtium (leaves, lutein levels only) 13,600 [28]
turnip greens (raw) 12,825
spinach (raw) 12,198
spinach (cooked) 11,308
swiss chard (raw or cooked) 11,000
turnip greens (cooked) 8440
collard greens (cooked) 7694
watercress (raw) 5767
garden peas (raw) 2593
romaine lettuce 2312
zucchini 2125
brussels sprouts 1590
pistachio nuts 1205
broccoli 1121
carrot (cooked) 687
Maize/corn 642
egg (hard boiled) 353
avocado (raw) 271
carrot (raw) 256
kiwifruit 122


In humans, the Observed Safe Level (OSL) for lutein, based on a non-government organization evaluation, is 20 mg/day.[29] Although much higher levels have been tested without adverse effects and may also be safe, the data for intakes above the OSL are not sufficient for a confident conclusion of long-term safety.[29] Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the European Food Safety Authority consider lutein an essential nutrient or have acted to set a tolerable upper intake level.

Commercial valueEdit

The lutein market is segmented into pharmaceutical, dietary supplement, food, pet food, and animal and fish feed.

  • The pharmaceutical market is estimated to be about US$190 million, nutraceutical and food is estimated to be about US$110 million.
  • Pet food and other animal applications are estimated at US$175 million annually. Includes chickens (usually in combination with other carotenoids), to get color in egg yolks, and fish farms to color the flesh closer to wild-caught color.

In the dietary supplement industry the major market is for products with claims of helping maintain eye health. Newer applications are emerging in oral and topical products for skin health. Skin health via orally consumed supplements is one of the fastest growing areas of the US$2 billion carotenoid market.[30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ MSDS at Carl Roth (Lutein Rotichrom, German).
  2. ^ "lutein", Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ Malinow MR, Feeney-Burns L, Peterson LH, Klein ML, Neuringer M (August 1980). "Diet-related macular anomalies in monkeys". Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 19 (8): 857–63. PMID 7409981. 
  4. ^ Johnson EJ, Hammond BR, Yeum KJ (June 2000). "Relation among serum and tissue concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin and macular pigment density". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 71 (6): 1555–62. PMID 10837298. 
  5. ^ Landrum, J., et al. Serum and macular pigment response to 2.4 mg dosage of lutein. in ARVO. 2000.
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Aleman TS, Duncan JL, Bieber ML (July 2001). "Macular pigment and lutein supplementation in retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome". Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 42 (8): 1873–81. PMID 11431456. 
  8. ^ Duncan JL, Aleman TS, Gardner LM (March 2002). "Macular pigment and lutein supplementation in choroideremia". Exp. Eye Res. 74 (3): 371–81. PMID 12014918. doi:10.1006/exer.2001.1126. 
  9. ^ 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. PMID 15671301. doi:10.1167/iovs.02-1192. 
  10. ^ Richer S (January 1999). "ARMD—pilot (case series) environmental intervention data". J Am Optom Assoc. 70 (1): 24–36. PMID 10457679. 
  11. ^ a b Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L (April 2004). "Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial)". Optometry. 75 (4): 216–30. PMID 15117055. doi:10.1016/s1529-1839(04)70049-4. 
  12. ^ Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group (October 2001). "A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8". Arch. Ophthalmol. 119 (10): 1417–36. PMC 1462955 . PMID 11594942. doi:10.1001/archopht.119.10.1417. 
  13. ^ a b c d SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE (September 2007). "The relationship of dietary carotenoid and vitamin A, E, and C intake with age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No. 22". Arch. Ophthalmol. 125 (9): 1225–32. PMID 17846363. doi:10.1001/archopht.125.9.1225. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  15. ^ Moeller SM, Voland R, Tinker L, Blodi BA, Klein ML, Gehrs KM, Johnson EJ, Snodderly DM, Wallace RB, Chappell RJ, Parekh N, Ritenbaugh C, Mares JA. "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.". Arch Ophthalmol. 126 (3): 354–64. PMC 2562026 . PMID 18332316. doi:10.1001/archopht.126.3.354. 
  16. ^ Barker Fm, 2nd (2010). "Dietary supplementation: effects on visual performance and occurrence of AMD and cataracts.". Current medical research and opinion. 26 (8): 2011–23. PMID 20590393. doi:10.1185/03007995.2010.494549. 
  17. ^ Liu XH, Yu RB, Liu R, Hao ZX, Han CC, Zhu ZH, Ma L (2014). "Association between lutein and zeaxanthin status and the risk of cataract: a meta-analysis". Nutrients. 6 (1): 452–65. PMC 3916871 . PMID 24451312. doi:10.3390/nu6010452. 
  18. ^ Ma L, Hao ZX, Liu RR, Yu RB, Shi Q, Pan JP (2014). "A dose-response meta-analysis of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake in relation to risk of age-related cataract". Graefes Arch. Clin. Exp. Ophthalmol. 252 (1): 63–70. PMID 24150707. doi:10.1007/s00417-013-2492-3. 
  19. ^ Chew EY, SanGiovanni JP, Ferris FL, Wong WT, Agron E, Clemons TE, Sperduto R, Danis R, Chandra SR, Blodi BA, Domalpally A, Elman MJ, Antoszyk AN, Ruby AJ, Orth D, Bressler SB, Fish GE, Hubbard GB, Klein ML, Friberg TR, Rosenfeld PJ, Toth CA, Bernstein P (2013). "Lutein/zeaxanthin for the treatment of age-related cataract: AREDS2 randomized trial report no. 4". JAMA Ophthalmol. 131 (7): 843–50. PMID 23645227. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.4412. 
  20. ^ Stringham JM, O'Brien KJ, Stringham NT (2016). "Macular carotenoid supplementation improves disability glare performance and dynamics of photostress recovery". Eye Vis (Lond). 3: 30. PMC 5106769 . PMID 27857944. doi:10.1186/s40662-016-0060-8. 
  21. ^ Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD (November 1994). "Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group". JAMA. 272 (18): 1413–20. PMID 7933422. doi:10.1001/jama.272.18.1413. 
  22. ^ Bowen PE, Herbst-Espinosa SM, Hussain EA, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M (2002). "Esterification does not impair lutein bioavailability in humans". J Nutr. 132 (12): 3668–73. PMID 12468605. 
  23. ^ WHO/FAO Codex Alimentarius General Standard for Food Additives
  24. ^ UK Food Standards Agency: "Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers". Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  25. ^ Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code"Standard 1.2.4 - Labelling of ingredients". Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  26. ^ Reuters, Study finds spinach, eggs ward off cause of blindness
  27. ^ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23 (2010) Archived 2015-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ a b c Niizu, P.Y.; Delia B. Rodriguez-Amaya (2005). "Flowers and Leaves of Tropaeolum majus L. as Rich Sources of Lutein". Journal of Food Science. 70 (9): S605–S609. ISSN 1750-3841. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2005.tb08336.x. 
  29. ^ a b Shao A, Hathcock JN (2006). "Risk assessment for the carotenoids lutein and lycopene". Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology : RTP. 45 (3): 289–98. PMID 16814439. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.05.007. Retrieved 2016-07-17. The OSL risk assessment method indicates that the evidence of safety is strong at intakes up to 20mg/d for lutein, and 75 mg/d for lycopene, and these levels are identified as the respective OSLs. Although much higher levels have been tested without adverse effects and may be safe, the data for intakes above these levels are not sufficient for a confident conclusion of long-term safety. 
  30. ^ FOD025C The Global Market for Carotenoids, BCC Research

External linksEdit