Promoting Eye and Skin Health Through Intake of the Natural Carotenoid Lutein

  • Brandon Lewis


Carotenoids in general are yellow, orange, or red lipophilic pigments that provide many of the colors found in nature. To date, over 600 carotenoids have been identified in nature and are produced by plants, algae, and bacteria. Animals appear to be incapable of biosynthesizing carotenoids, but many animals use them for a variety of purposes and therefore must obtain carotenoids from their diet. Two carotenoids receiving increased attention in the scientific literature are lutein and its isomer, zeaxanthin. In the human eye, lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in the macula and referred to as the macular pigment. Lutein is thought to function primarily in the eye as a filter of light, specifically blue wavelengths of light, and as an antioxidant. Large case-control studies indicating relationships between lutein, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts were first published in the 1990s. In these studies, consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin was associated with a significant trend for decreased risk of AMD and cataract extraction. Since this time, relationships between dietary intake, serum concentrations, and macular pigment levels have been documented. The newest clinical research in subjects diagnosed with early AMD or cataracts indicates lutein supplementation after diagnosis may improve visual performance and augments earlier evidence that the dry form of AMD and cataracts may be responsive to changes in nutrition. As in the eyes, lutein is deposited in the skin. Lutein is thought to perform a similar function in the skin as in the eye, and epidemiological evidence, as well as animal studies, indicate a possible beneficial effect of supplementation. Nevertheless, a variety of questions remain unanswered. Future research should begin to confirm the potential of lutein to affect individuals already diagnosed with AMD or cataracts, and validate the beneficial effects of lutein on skin health in human populations.

Key Words

Lutein zeaxanthin eye health skin health 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.Kemin Health, L.C.Des Moines

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