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Lutein, a chemical found in green vegetables, is a member of a family of substances known as carotenoids . Beta-carotene is the most famous nutrient in this class. Like beta-carotene, lutein is an antioxidant that protects our cells against damage caused by dangerous, naturally occurring chemicals known as free radicals.
Recent evidence has found that lutein may play an important role in protecting our eyes and eyesight. It may work in two ways: by acting directly as a kind of natural sunblock, and also by neutralizing free radicals that can damage the eye.
According to theoretical findings and two preliminary double-blind studies, it appears that use of lutein supplements might help prevent or slow the development of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and possibly cataracts , the two most common causes of vision loss in seniors.
Lutein has also shown a hint of promise for treatment of retinitis pigmentosa , an inherited form of eye disease that causes progressive vision loss. 1 Very weak evidence hints that lutein might help prevent atherosclerosis . 2
What is the Scientific Evidence for Lutein?
Most but not all observational studies suggest that people who eat foods containing lutein are less likely to develop cataracts and perhaps macular degeneration as well, the two most common causes of vision loss in adults. 3...
Although lutein is a normal part of the diet, there has not been much evaluation of lutein's safety when taken as a concentrated supplement. One study found evidence that lutein is safe in doses up to the highest tested dose of 10 mg daily. 4 A review of other evidence concluded that long term use of lutein should be safe when taken at a dose of up to 20 mg per day. 5 A 2009 study following 77,126 adults (over age 50), however, suggests that there may be some harm in long-term supplementation with lutein. This study found that long-term use of beta-carotene, lutein or retinol supplements may increase lung cancer risk. Long-term supplement use was determined by subjects' memory of the previous 10 years, so the results of this large study should be interpreted...