The nutrient lutein naturally exists in a range of foods, particularly green vegetables and your body has particularly rich concentrations in various parts of the eye. Observational studies suggest individuals who consume large amounts of lutein have a decreased risk of eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Supplementing with lutein might help head off the development of these conditions or slow their progress if you already suffer from them. Lutein seems to be a generally safe supplement, but you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. He can suggest an appropriate dose.
General Dosing Guidelines
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports you might need anywhere from 5 to 30 mg of lutein to achieve a medicinal effect, but that the scientific community has yet to establish firm dosage guidelines.
Doses Used in Research
Most studies examining the effects of lutein have looked at its effects on eye health. The University of Michigan Health System points to one trial that found that supplementing with 15 mg of lutein three times a week for one year significantly improved visual function in subjects suffering from cataracts. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports that one trial study found that taking 10 mg a day resulted in improved vision in patients with macular degeneration, but another trial using only 6 mg failed to show any benefit.
Safety of Lutein Supplements
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports that a 2009 study of over 70,000 individuals found individuals who used certain supplements long-term, such as lutein, beta-carotene and retinol, were more likely to get lung cancer. It notes, however, that researchers gathered data based on the participant's recollection of the use of these supplements over the previous 10 years. Self-reported data must always be interpreted with caution and this link has not been conclusively established. This underscores the importance of consulting with your doctor, who can suggest an appropriate dose and how long to take it. The University of Michigan Health System reports a lack of serious side effects associated with this supplement, but the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that lutein could cause a yellowing of the skin when used in large amounts – this would reverse itself once you no longer took large amounts.
Considerations for Lutein in the Diet
While research suggests lutein supplementation might offer benefits, the links found between eating a lutein-rich diet and reduced risk of developing these conditions makes it prudent to regularly consume more of these foods, especially if you do not already have these diseases and are looking to avoid them. Foods particularly high in lutein include green vegetables, with kale being the richest source. Other sources of lutein include oranges, tangerines, corn, beans, papayas, tomatoes, peaches, melons, carrots and grapefruit.