Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and its sister compound zeaxanthin are two of the most abundant carotenoids in the diet of industrialized countries. The names of both reflect their natural yellow color (the Latin ‘luteus’ and the Greek ‘xanthos’ mean ‘yellow’).

These carotenoids are found notably concentrated in leafy green vegetables. Since these foods also feature a host of other pigments, the yellow color of lutein and zeaxanthin is not predominant.

As the human body cannot produce lutein and zeaxanthin, they need to be obtained through food. Lutein is present in the eye, blood, skin, brain and breast.

Unlike beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin cannot be converted in the body into vitamin A (retinol).

As antioxidants, potentially protecting the body against cell-damaging effects of free radicals, lutein and zeaxanthin have been linked to disease prevention, especially age-related eye diseases.

Health functions

Carotenoids can absorb light in the visible range of the spectrum (1). In the eye, lutein and zeaxanthin efficiently absorb blue light. As antioxidants, reducing the amount of blue light that reaches the critical visual structures, they may protect the eye from light-induced oxidative damage (2).

Disease risk reduction

Dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a decreased lung cancer risk in a six-year study in more than 58,000 Dutch men (3) while other studies did not show such association (see also beta-carotene).

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Things to know about Luthein and Zeaxanthin

  • Other applications

    Several studies have suggested lutein and zeaxanthin may lower the risk for forming age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

  • Intake recommendations

    Due to lack of scientific data, there are currently no dietary recommendations for lutein and zeaxanthin.

  • Supply situation

    Currently, there are only very limited lutein and zeaxanthin consumption data available.

  • Deficiency

    There is not yet a well-established definition of lutein or zeaxanthin deficiency.

  • Sources

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are present in a variety of fruits and vegetables: dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are particularly rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

  • Safety

    No toxicities or adverse effects have been reported for lutein and zeaxanthin (25, 26).

  • References

    Consult the full list of scientific references.