Lutein for Eye Health: Does It Work?

Someone can be the apple of your eye or a sight for sore eyes. We have many expressions that refer to our eyes. These figures of speech are just one sign of how important our vision is.

When you’re searching for nutrients for eye health, you’ll find lutein. Lutein has many benefits, and most people should get more lutein for eye health.

Learn more about lutein and other nutrients for eye health. You’ll also find out about other simple steps you can take to protect your vision.

What Is Lutein?

Lutein is a type of antioxidant called a carotenoid. It’s related to beta-carotene and vitamin A.

Carotenoids are pigments found in plant cells. They give plants their vibrant colors.

Lutein is one of two carotenoids found in human eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the retina. Their highest concentration is in the macula at the back of the eye.

The macula is the part of the eye responsible for sharp vision.

The Role of Lutein for Eye Health

Studies have shown that lutein works to protect the retina of the eye. It protects eye tissue from damage by blue light.

As an antioxidant, lutein helps to prevent oxidative damage to blood vessels in the retina. Inflammation and oxidative stress are related to eye conditions including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Macular degeneration

Studies have shown that increased levels of lutein are related to lower incidences of age-related macular degeneration. High lutein levels also correspond to lower rates of age-related cataracts.

The effect of lutein on diabetic retinopathy is less well-established. Animal studies have shown that lutein may reduce oxidative stress markers. Oxidative stress can lead to eye damage and vision loss.

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Sources of Lutein

Lutein is an “essential nutrient.” We have to get it through food or supplements because our bodies can’t make it. You can enjoy many dietary sources of lutein, such as:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Leeks
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Corn
  • Durum and einkorn wheat
  • Pistachios
  • Egg yolks

The body absorbs lutein best when the nutrient is paired with a fat source. Low-density lipoproteins, which transport fat molecules in the body, are the main transport method for lutein. For this reason, egg yolks are one of the best sources of lutein.

If you aren’t able to get enough lutein from your diet, you can take supplements. The lutein in supplements often comes from marigold flowers. The formulation typically includes some type of oil to improve absorption.

How Much Lutein Is Necessary?

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t established a recommended amount of lutein in the diet. The agency classes it as Generally Recognized as Safe, though.

Most Americans don’t consume much lutein in their diets. You probably need to increase your intake to see any health benefits.

Studies have shown health benefits from 10 mg of lutein per day. Most people eat only 12 mg/day. People taking lutein supplements at levels as high as 20 mg/day did not have any significant side effects.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements. Your eye care professional can help you determine the best dose of lutein for your particular situation.

Other Nutrients for Eye Health

Lutein is one of the important nutrients for eye health. You can consider other antioxidants as well that may help improve vision and prevent eye conditions.


Lutein and zeaxanthin work together in the retina. Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a carotenoid.

Many sources of lutein are also good sources of zeaxanthin. Dietary sources of zeaxanthin include:

  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Corn
  • Egg yolks
  • Goji berries
  • Orange bell peppers

The human body can convert lutein into zeaxanthin.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps maintain a clear cornea. It supports the conjunctival membranes. It’s essential for the formation of photopigments that help you see at night.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble antioxidant. Your body can store vitamin A for future use. It will absorb vitamin A better in combination with fat.

Vitamin A comes in two forms: retinoids and beta-carotene. Retinoids come from animal products and beta-carotene comes from plants. Some dietary sources of vitamin A are:

  • Eggs
  • Whole milk
  • Liver
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach

Zinc helps bring vitamin A to the retina. Red meat, shellfish, nuts, and seeds are sources of zinc to help ensure that your body gets the most benefits from vitamin A.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects eye cells against damage from free radicals. It works with lutein to protect retinal cells from oxidation.

Vitamin E is another fat-soluble antioxidant. Dietary sources of vitamin E include:

  • Plant-based oils, like sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Avocados

Some studies show that diets high in vitamin E protect against age-related cataracts. However, other studies don’t show the same results, so more research is needed.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps support the blood vessels and connective tissues in your eyes. It helps your body form collagen. It defends against oxidation and helps prevent free radicals from attacking your cells.

Citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C. Other dietary sources include:

  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage

Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant. Your body will get rid of any extra vitamin C, so you need regular amounts to avoid deficiencies.

Daily Techniques to Improve Vision and Eye Health

Eating the right food for good eyesight gives you a strong foundation. You can take other steps in your everyday life to protect your eye health.

Take Breaks to Avoid Eye Strain

Taking periodic breaks from working on a computer or other near work can help avoid eye strain and possible nearsightedness. Many optometrists recommend the 20-20-20 method. It uses a 20-second break every 20 minutes looking at an object at least 20 feet away.

Use a Cold Eye Compress

A cold compress for your eyes has many of the same results as for other parts of your body. The benefits of cold eye compress start with soothing tired eyes.

A cold compress can reduce the inflammation and pain that result from eye conditions like dry eye disease and allergies. It can reduce symptoms like puffiness and redness.

Don’t Waste Time on Eye Exercises

You may have heard that certain eye exercises can improve your eyesight or help you avoid glasses. However, scientific evidence to support these claims is lacking. Taking breaks from close-up work like staring at the computer will have more benefits than any eye exercise.

Start Improving Your Eye Health Today

Getting more lutein for eye health is a great way to start protecting yourself against common eye problems. It can reduce your chances of having age-related macular degeneration or cataracts.

Other nutrients are also important. Vitamins A, C, and E help protect the cells in your eyes from damage.

You can take simple steps every day to further protect your eyesight. Taking breaks from close-up work and using a cold compress have many benefits for your eye health.

For more tips you can start using today, check out the rest of our health articles.