Letter to the editor

Current results on the potential health benefits of lutein

Jae Kwang Kim1, Sang Un Park2[*]

1Division of Life Sciences, College of Life Sciences and Bioengineering, Incheon National University, Incheon, 406-772, Korea

2Department of Crop Science, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 305-764, Korea

EXCLI J 2016;15:Doc308


Dear Editor,

Lutein is a nutritionally beneficial organic tetraterpenoid pigment; its molecular formula and weight are C40H56O2 and 568.87144 g/mol, respectively. It is responsible for the yellow color of fruits and vegetables and is found in high levels in parsley, spinach, kale, egg yolk, and lutein-fortified foods (Shegokar and Mitri, 2012[29]).

Lutein has a wide range of beneficial health effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, antiulcer, and anticancer effects (Miyazawa et al., 2013[22]; Johnson, 2014[13]; Erdman et al., 2015[8]; Manayi et al., 2015[19]). Furthermore, it is used to prevent eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, and retinitis pigmentosa (Koushan et al., 2013[15]; Sulich et al., 2015[34]).

The commercial value of lutein is growing with the customary age-related macular degeneration applications. The lutein market is segmented into pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, food, pet foods, cosmetics, and animal and fish feed. Lutein shows a range of biological activities and health benefits in animals; therefore, herein, we have reviewed the most recent studies on lutein and its biological and pharmacological activities (Table 1(Tab. 1); References in Table 1: Song et al., 2015[32]; Sheshappa et al., 2015[30]; Crichton et al., 2015[6]; Lieblein-Boff et al., 2015[17]; Du et al., 2015[7]; Cheng et al., 2015[4]; Qiu et al., 2015[25]; Fatani et al., 2015[9]; Wu et al., 2015[44]; Huang et al., 2015[12]; Li et al., 2015[16]; Han et al., 2015[11]; Rafi et al., 2015[26]; Tian et al., 2015[37]; Casaroli-Marano et al., 2015[2]; Wang et al., 2014[42]; Niesor et al., 2014[23]; Su et al., 2014[33]; Sun et al., 2014[35]; Kon et al., 2014[14]; Promphet et al., 2014[24]; Furlani et al., 2014[10]; Serpeloni et al., 2014[28]; Matsumoto et al., 2014[20]; Vishwanathan et al., 2014[40]; Sen et al., 2014[27]; Min and Min, 2014[21]; Ma et al., 2014[18]; Xu et al., 2013[45]; Binawade et al., 2013[1]; Chang et al., 2013[3]; Tian et al., 2013[38]; Yajima et al., 2013[47]; Sung et al., 2013[36]; Costa et al., 2013[5]; Wang et al., 2013[41]; Yao et al., 2013[48]; Xu et al., 2013[46]; Vijayapadma et al., 2014[39]; Woo et al., 2013[43]; Sindhu et al., 2012[31]).


This research was supported by Golden Seed Project funded by Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), Rural Development Administration (RDA) and Korea Forest Service (KFS).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



1. Binawade Y, Jagtap A. Neuroprotective effect of lutein against 3-nitropropionic acid-induced Huntington's disease-like symptoms: possible behavioral, biochemical, and cellular alterations. J Med Food. 2013;16:934-43.
2. Casaroli-Marano RP, Sousa-Martins D, Martínez-Conesa EM, Badaró E, Nunes RP, Lima-Filho AA, et al. Dye solutions based on lutein and zeaxanthin: in vitro and in vivo analysis of ocular toxicity profiles. Curr Eye Res. 2015;40:707-18.
3. Chang CJ, Lin JF, Chang HH, Lee GA, Hung CF. Lutein protects against methotrexate-induced and reactive oxygen species-mediated apoptotic cell injury of IEC-6 cells. PLoS One. 2013;8:e72553.
4. Cheng F, Zhang Q, Yan FF, Wan JF, Lin CS. Lutein protects against ischemia/reperfusion injury in rat skeletal muscle by modulating oxidative stress and inflammation. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2015;37:329-34.
5. Costa S, Giannantonio C, Romagnoli C, Vento G, Gervasoni J, Persichilli S, et al. Effects of lutein supplementation on biological antioxidant status in preterm infants: a randomized clinical trial. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013;26:1311-5.
6. Crichton G, Elias M, Alkerwi A, Buckley J. Intake of Lutein-rich vegetables is associated with higher levels of physical activity. Nutrients. 2015;7:8058-71.
7. Du SY, Zhang YL, Bai RX, Ai ZL, Xie BS, Yang HY. Lutein prevents alcohol-induced liver disease in rats by modulating oxidative stress and inflammation. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8:8785-93.
8. Erdman JW Jr, Smith JW, Kuchan MJ, Mohn ES, Johnson EJ, Rubakhin SS, et al. Lutein and brain function. Foods. 2015;4:547-64.
9. Fatani AJ, Al-Rejaie SS, Abuohashish HM, Al-Assaf A, Parmar MY, Ahmed MM. Lutein dietary supplementation attenuates streptozotocin-induced testicular damage and oxidative stress in diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015;15:204.
10. Furlani BA, Barroso L, Sousa-Martins D, Maia M, Moraes-Filho MN, Badaro E, et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin toxicity with and without brilliant blue in rabbits. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2014;30:559-66.
11. Han H, Cui W, Wang L, Xiong Y, Liu L, Sun X, et al. Lutein prevents high fat diet-induced atherosclerosis in ApoE-deficient mice by inhibiting NADPH oxidase and increasing PPAR expression. Lipids. 2015;50:261-73.
12. Huang YM, Dou HL, Huang FF, Xu XR, Zou ZY, Lin XM. Effect of supplemental lutein and zeaxanthin on serum, macular pigmentation, and visual performance in patients with early age-related macular degeneration. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:564738.
13. Johnson EJ. Role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive function throughout the lifespan. Nutr Rev. 2014;72:605-12.
14. Kon IY, Gmoshinskaya MV, Safronova AI, Alarcon P, Vandenplas Y. Growth and tolerance assessment of a lutein-fortified infant formula. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2014;17:104-11.
15. Koushan K, Rusovici R, Li W, Ferguson LR, Chalam KV. The role of lutein in eye-related disease. Nutrients. 2013;5:1823-39.
16. Li S, Ding Y, Niu Q, Xu S, Pang L, Ma R, et al. Lutein has a protective effect on hepatotoxicity induced by arsenic via Nrf2 signaling. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:315205.
17. Lieblein-Boff JC, Johnson EJ, Kennedy AD, Lai CS, Kuchan MJ. Exploratory metabolomic analyses reveal compounds correlated with lutein concentration in frontal cortex, hippocampus, and occipital cortex of human infant brain. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0136904.
18. Ma L, Hao ZX, Liu RR, Yu RB, Shi Q, Pan JP. A dose-response meta-analysis of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake in relation to risk of age-related cataract. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2014;252:63-70.
19. Manayi A, Abdollahi M, Raman T, Nabavi SF, Habtemariam S, Daglia M, et al. Lutein and cataract: from bench to bedside. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2015;8:1-11.
20. Matsumoto M, Hagio M, Inoue R, Mitani T, Yajima M, Hara H, et al. Long-term oral feeding of lutein-fortified milk increases voluntary running distance in rats. PLoS One. 2014;9:e93529.
21. Min JY, Min KB. Serum lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the risk of Alzheimer's disease mortality in older adults. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;37:246-56.
22. Miyazawa T, Nakagawa K, Kimura F, Nakashima Y, Maruyama I, Higuchi O, et al. Chlorella is an effective dietary source of lutein for human erythrocytes. J Oleo Sci. 2013;62:773-9.
23. Niesor EJ, Chaput E, Mary JL, Staempfli A, Topp A, Stauffer A, et al. Effect of compounds affecting ABCA1 expression and CETP activity on the HDL pathway involved in intestinal absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin. Lipids. 2014;49:1233-43.
24. Promphet P, Bunarsa S, Sutheerawattananonda M, Kunthalert D. Immune enhancement activities of silk lutein extract from Bombyx mori cocoons. Biol Res. 2014;47:15.
25. Qiu X, Gao DH, Xiang X, Xiong YF, Zhu TS, Liu LG, et al. Ameliorative effects of lutein on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21:8061-72.
26. Rafi MM, Kanakasabai S, Gokarn SV, Krueger EG, Bright JJ. Dietary lutein modulates growth and survival genes in prostate cancer cells. J Med Food. 2015;18:173-81.
27. Sen A, Marsche G, Freudenberger P, Schallert M, Toeglhofer AM, Nagl C, et al. Association between higher plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C concentrations and longer telomere length: results of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62:222-9.
28. Serpeloni JM, Cólus IM, de Oliveira FS, Aissa AF, Mercadante AZ, Bianchi ML, et al. Diet carotenoid lutein modulates the expression of genes related to oxygen transporters and decreases DNA damage and oxidative stress in mice. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014;70:205-13.
29. Shegokar R, Mitri K. Carotenoid lutein: a promising candidate for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications. J Diet Suppl. 2012;9:183-210.
30. Sheshappa MB, Ranganathan A, Bhatiwada N, Talahalli RR, Vallikannan B. Dietary components affect the plasma and tissue levels of lutein in aged rats with lutein deficiency-a repeated gavage and dietary study. J Food Sci. 2015;80:H2322-30.
31. Sindhu ER, Kuttan R. Carotenoid lutein protects rats from gastric ulcer induced by ethanol. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2012;23:33-7.
32. Song MH, Shin EC, Hwang DY, Jang IS. Effects of lutein or lutein in combination with vitamin C on mRNA expression and activity of antioxidant enzymes and status of the antioxidant system in SD rats. Lab Anim Res. 2015;31:117-24.
33. Su CC, Chan CM, Chen HM, Wu CC, Hsiao CY, Lee PL, et al. Lutein inhibits the migration of retinal pigment epithelial cells via cytosolic and mitochondrial Akt pathways (lutein inhibits RPE cells migration). Int J Mol Sci. 2014;15:13755-67.
34. Sulich A, Hamułka J, Nogal D. Dietary sources of lutein in adults suffering eye disease (AMD/cataracts). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2015;66:55-60.
35. Sun YX, Liu T, Dai XL, Zheng QS, Hui BD, Jiang ZF. Treatment with lutein provides neuroprotection in mice subjected to transient cerebral ischemia. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2014;16:1084-93.
36. Sung JH, Jo YS, Kim SJ, Ryu JS, Kim MC, Ko HJ, et al. Effect of lutein on L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2013;17:339-45.
37. Tian Y, Kijlstra A, van der Veen RL, Makridaki M, Murray IJ, Berendschot TT. Lutein supplementation leads to decreased soluble complement membrane attack complex sC5b-9 plasma levels. Acta Ophthalmol. 2015;93:141-5.
38. Tian Y, Kijlstra A, van der Veen RL, Makridaki M, Murray IJ, Berendschot TT. The effect of lutein supplementation on blood plasma levels of complement factor D, C5a and C3d. PLoS One. 2013;8:e73387.
39. Vijayapadma V, Ramyaa P, Pavithra D, Krishnasamy R. Protective effect of lutein against benzo(a)pyrene-induced oxidative stress in human erythrocytes. Toxicol Ind Health. 2014;30:284-93.
40. Vishwanathan R, Kuchan MJ, Sen S, Johnson EJ. Lutein and preterm infants with decreased concentrations of brain carotenoids. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014;59:659-65.
41. Wang MX, Jiao JH, Li ZY, Liu RR, Shi Q, Ma L. Lutein supplementation reduces plasma lipid peroxidation and C-reactive protein in healthy nonsmokers. Atherosclerosis. 2013;227:380-5.
42. Wang X, Jiang C, Zhang Y, Gong Y, Chen X, Zhang M. Role of lutein supplementation in the management of age-related macular degeneration: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ophthalmic Res. 2014;52:198-205.
43. Woo TT, Li SY, Lai WW, Wong D, Lo AC. Neuroprotective effects of lutein in a rat model of retinal detachment. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2013;251:41-51.
44. Wu W, Li Y, Wu Y, Zhang Y, Wang Z, Liu X. Lutein suppresses inflammatory responses through Nrf2 activation and NF-κB inactivation in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated BV-2 microglia. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015;59:1663-73.
45. Xu X, Hang L, Huang B, Wei Y, Zheng S, Li W. Efficacy of ethanol extract of Fructus lycii and its constituents Lutein/Zeaxanthin in protecting retinal pigment epithelium cells against oxidative stress: in vivo and in vitro models of age-related macular degeneration. J Ophthalmol. 2013;2013:862806.
46. Xu XR, Zou ZY, Xiao X, Huang YM, Wang X, Lin XM. Effects of lutein supplement on serum inflammatory cytokines, ApoE and lipid profiles in early atherosclerosis population. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2013;20:170-7.
47. Yajima M, Matsumoto M, Harada M, Hara H, Yajima T. Effects of constant light during perinatal periods on the behavioral and neuronal development of mice with or without dietary lutein. Biomed Res. 2013;34:197-204.
48. Yao Y, Qiu QH, Wu XW, Cai ZY, Xu S, Liang XQ. Lutein supplementation improves visual performance in Chinese drivers: 1-year randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition. 2013;29:958-64.

Table 1: Recent studies on lutein and its biological and pharmacological activities

[*] Corresponding Author:

Sang Un Park, Department of Crop Science, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 305-764, Korea; Phone: +82-42-821-5730, Fax: +82-42-822-2631, eMail: supark@cnu.ac.kr