Role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive function throughout the lifespan

Nutr Rev. 2014 Sep;72(9):605-12. doi: 10.1111/nure.12133. Epub 2014 Aug 8.


The relationship between lutein and zeaxanthin and visual and cognitive health throughout the lifespan is compelling. There is a variety of evidence to support a role for lutein and zeaxanthin in vision. Lutein's role in cognition has only recently been considered. Lutein and its isomer, zeaxanthin, are taken up selectively into eye tissue. Lutein is the predominant carotenoid in human brain tissue. Lutein and zeaxanthin in neural tissue may have biological effects that include antioxidation, anti-inflammation, and structural actions. In addition, lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective against eye disease because they absorb damaging blue light that enters the eye. In pediatric brains, the relative contribution of lutein to the total carotenoids is twice that found in adults, accounting for more than half the concentration of total carotenoids. The greater proportion of lutein in the pediatric brain suggests a need for lutein during neural development as well. In adults, higher lutein status is related to better cognitive performance, and lutein supplementation improves cognition. The evidence to date warrants further investigation into the role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive health throughout the lifespan.

Keywords: carotenoid; cognition; lifespan; lutein; vision; zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Eye Diseases / prevention & control
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Lutein / administration & dosage*
  • Lutein / metabolism
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Vegetables / chemistry
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Xanthophylls / administration & dosage*
  • Xanthophylls / metabolism
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Lutein