Lutein is one of the few xanthophyll carotenoids that is found in high concentration in the macula of human retina. As de novo synthesis of lutein within the human body is impossible, lutein can only be obtained from diet. It is a natural substance abundant in egg yolk and dark green leafy vegetables. Many basic and clinical studies have reported lutein's anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties in the eye, suggesting its beneficial effects on protection and alleviation of ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity, myopia, and cataract. Most importantly, lutein is categorized as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS), posing minimal side-effects upon long term consumption. In this review, we will discuss the chemical structure and properties of lutein as well as its application and safety as a nutritional supplement. Finally, the effects of lutein consumption on the aforementioned eye diseases will be reviewed.
Keywords: age-related macular degeneration; antioxidant; carotenoid; cataract; diabetic retinopathy; myopia; nutrition; retina; retinopathy of prematurity; xanthophyll.