Lutein is a type of plant pigment and serves as an antioxidant that may help protect your cells against damage when used as a medicinal supplement. Traditionally, lutein has been used to promote eye health and prevent lutein deficiency. Current research cited by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center suggests that lutein supplementation may also help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration -- two common eye diseases that may cause blindness. Before adding this supplement to your diet, talk with your healthcare provider about the safety of lutein.
Negative Side Effects
Typically, people do not experience negative side effects when they use lutein supplements as directed. If you take too much lutein or receive treatment with this supplement for a prolonged period of time, it may build up in your bloodstream. High blood levels of carotenoids -- including lutein -- may cause an unusual yellow discoloration of your skin, a condition called carotenodermia. Though carotenodermia is a temporary side effect, it may be embarrassing or bothersome. Your skin will return to its natural color once your blood levels of lutein decrease and return to normal.
Depending on your current health status, treatment with lutein supplements may not be appropriate. Discuss any medical concerns you have with your healthcare provider before taking lutein. The safety and efficacy of this supplement have not been evaluated during pregnancy. Expectant or nursing mothers should avoid treatment with lutein supplements.
Interactions with Other Medications
Natural supplements may interfere with the absorption or efficacy of other medications you may be taking. Let your doctor know what other drugs or supplements you take before beginning treatment with lutein. Health professionals with the University of Michigan Health System indicate that no well-known drug interactions are associated with lutein as of January 2011.
Always consult your physician to determine how much lutein you should take on a daily basis. The recommended dosage of lutein for adults interested in preventing the onset of age-related macular degeneration or cataracts is 6 mg daily. People with age-related macular degeneration may take 10 mg of lutein each day to help reduce their symptoms. However, additional data from human clinical trials are necessary to demonstrate that these recommended doses of lutein effectively prevent or treat eye diseases.