Lutein and zeaxanthin and their potential roles in disease prevention

J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):567S-587S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719427.


Lutein and zeaxanthin are xanthophyll carotenoids found particularly in dark-green leafy vegetables and in egg yolks. They are widely distributed in tissues and are the principal carotenoids in the eye lens and macular region of the retina. Epidemiologic studies indicating an inverse relationship between xanthophyll intake or status and both cataract and age-related macular degeneration suggest these compounds can play a protective role in the eye. Some observational studies have also shown these xanthophylls may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly those of the breast and lung. Emerging studies suggest as well a potential contribution of lutein and zeaxanthin to the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Even as the evidence for a role of lutein and zeaxanthin in disease prevention continues to evolve, particularly from human studies directed to their bioavailability, metabolism, and dose-response relationships with intermediary biomarkers and clinical outcomes, it is worth noting that recommendations to consume foods rich in xanthophylls are consistent with current dietary guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cataract / prevention & control
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Lutein / therapeutic use*
  • Macular Degeneration / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • Lutein