Lutein shines in aging vision trials

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in aging Western societies. Cataracts occur when protein in the eye lens becomes damaged, clouding vision. Two recent studies indicate that lutein, a type of carotenoid, can actually help improve symptoms of both ARMD and cataracts.

Researchers at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center Eye Clinic in Illinois conducted a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial on 90 patients with ARMD. Of these patients, 30 received lutein (10 mg); 30 received a formula with lutein (10 mg) plus antioxidant vitamins and minerals; and 30 received a placebo. The researchers found that patients taking the lutein and lutein formula showed improved eye macular pigment optical density, visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Patients who received the placebo showed no significant changes. Researchers were pleased with these results, stating, “visual function is improved with lutein alone or lutein together with other nutrients.”

In the second study, researchers investigated the effects of long-term supplementation of lutein and vitamin E on visual performance in patients with cataracts. Seventeen patients with age-related cataracts were randomly given either lutein (15 mg), vitamin E (100 mg) or a placebo three times a week for up to two years. Lutein and vitamin E concentrations were measured, and visual performance was monitored every three months throughout the study. Concentrations of both lutein and vitamin E increased with supplementation, but visual performance — particularly visual acuity and glare sensitivity—only improved in the lutein group. This study suggests that a higher intake of lutein, through supplements or lutein-rich foods, may have beneficial effects on the visual performance of people with age-related cataracts.

Sources: Optometry. 2004 Apr;75(4):216-30; Nutrition. 2003 Jan;19(1):21-4