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Known interactions

No interactions found.

On-line Xanthophyll

Scientific Name: Lutein

Other Names: Xanthophyll

Who is this for?

In general, individuals who consume large quantities of the vegetables and fruits that contain lutein may be less likely to develop cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than individuals with a lutein-poor diet. AMD results from the deterioration of the retina's central section. Partial or total vision loss may occur. Lutein is one of the two most common pigments (coloring agents) in the retina. It is believed to block out blue light and to protect retinal tissue from being damaged by light. In older individuals, the layer of yellow pigment in the retina tends to become thinner, increasing the chance for AMD. Taking lutein may thicken the yellow layer. In addition, lutein acts as an antioxidant to protect the interior of the eyes from damage by oxygen free radicals, natural chemicals produced in the body. Although a recent very large observational study of humans failed to prove that lutein affected the development of glaucoma, some earlier evidence suggests that lutein may help prevent some types of glaucoma, as well. Further studies are being conducted to better understand lutein's possible role in glaucoma.

Consumption of vegetables and fruits has long been associated with reduced rates of heart disease and some cancers. Because lutein is a major component of some plant foods known to be among the most protective, its antioxidant effects are thought to play a major part in preventing these conditions. In animal and human studies, lutein has been investigated for possible effects against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). However, results from several human studies conflict with each other. While some seem to show that high lutein levels correlate with lower risk of atherosclerosis, other studies find little or no anti-atherosclerotic effect from lutein. While generally positive, results from studies of lutein in cancer are mixed, too. For cancer prevention, lutein is believed to increase the death rate of cancer cells. At the same time, it may decrease the growth of blood vessels that supply cancerous tumors. In laboratory studies, lutein has also appeared to change the ways that DNA repairs itself. Lutein has shown some effectiveness in studies of breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancers in humans. Additionally, in laboratory mice, oral doses of lutein reduced the extent of skin damage from exposure to ultraviolet light. A possible protective effect from skin cancer may result. However, in an observational study of over 1,000 individuals in China, high blood levels of lutein seemed to be related to a slightly increased risk of having stomach cancer. The use of lutein in both heart disease and cancer needs more study.

When should I be careful taking it?

Neither dietary nor supplemental lutein has produced negative effects in any of the human populations that have been studied. It is believed to be safe for general use.

What side effects should I watch for?

No side effects have been associated with using lutein. However, it may have side effects that are not yet known. If you experience unexplained side effects while taking lutein, you should stop taking it and tell your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects.

What interactions should I watch for?

No significant interactions have been reported between lutein and prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, other herbal supplements, or foods. It is possible, though, that lutein may have interactions with drugs, foods, and other dietary supplements that are not understood completely. Be sure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of all the prescription and non-prescription medicines you take before you begin to use lutein or any other herbal supplement.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Lutein belongs to a group of chemicals known as carotenoids, which are the fat-soluble pigments (coloring agents) that give plants their distinctive red, orange, or yellow colors. Carotenoids are micronutrients — chemicals that the human body needs, but cannot make. Micronutrients have to be obtained from foods or supplements. Some study results seem to show that the body absorbs lutein and other carotenoids about equally well from either foods or supplements. In the human body, carotenoids act as antioxidants—they are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by oxygen free radicals. Produced by a chemical process called oxidation, oxygen free radicals may contribute to the development of cancer, heart disease, retinal deterioration, and also conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Recent study evidence suggests that the body's supplies of antioxidants such as lutein are severely reduced by inflammation, one of the processes that produce oxygen free radicals. Smoking cigarettes also significantly decreases the amounts and effects of antioxidants in the body.

Lutein is found in foods such as broccoli, corn, egg yolks, grapes, oranges, and spinach. For use in medicine, lutein currently is obtained mainly from yellow and orange marigold petals. Certain types of easily-grown, fresh-water algae such as chlorella contain significant amounts of lutein, however. Commercial growing of these algae may provide an inexpensive source of lutein not only for human and animal supplements, but for coloring agents and other food additives, as well.

Dosage and Administration

Lutein is available separately — generally as capsules. It is also included in many multiple vitamin products — especially those advertised as being beneficial for the eyes. Although many commercial products contain smaller amounts of lutein, a commonly suggested dose is 6 mg per day. This recommendation is based on the observation that individuals who consumed between 6 mg and 12 mg of lutein per day in their diets were less likely to develop cataracts, macular degeneration, and colon cancer. Supplemental lutein may be as effective as natural lutein.

Summary

Lutein may protect against the formation of cataracts, the age-related deterioration of the retina, and the development of colon and other cancers.

Risks

Supplemental lutein has been well-tolerated by participants in clinical studies. It does not appear to aggravate any medical conditions.

Side Effects

Taking lutein has not been associated with side effects.

Interactions

No interactions have been identified between lutein and drugs, herbals, other dietary supplements, or foods.

References

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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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