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Lutein Supplements Associated with 63% Increase in Visual Acuity

Research: In a randomized, double-blind study, groups of five patients diagnosed with age-related cataracts took 15 mg of lutein from a lutein ester supplement, 100 mg vitamin E, or a placebo capsule three times per week for up to two years. The subjects' visual acuity was measured with several standard eye tests at the beginning of the study and then every three months.

Results: As a group, subjects taking the lutein ester supplements had significant improvements in visual acuity -- approximately 63% -- and glare sensitivity also improved. Those taking vitamin E showed a trend toward maintaining their acuity. The opposite effect was seen among those taking placebos; there was a trend toward decreased visual acuity in these subjects. During the supplementation period, cataracts did not progress in four patients in the lutein group, three patients in the vitamin E group and one patient in the placebo group.


OBJECTIVE: We investigated the effect of long-term antioxidant supplementation (lutein and alpha-tocopherol) on serum levels and visual performance in patients with cataracts.

METHODS: Seventeen patients clinically diagnosed with age-related cataracts were randomized in a double-blind study involving dietary supplementation with lutein (15 mg; n = 5), alpha-tocopherol (100 mg; n = 6), or placebo (n = 6), three times a week for up to 2 y. Serum carotenoid and tocopherol concentrations were determined with quality-controlled high-performance liquid chromatography, and visual performance (visual acuity and glare sensitivity) and biochemical and hematologic indexes were monitored every 3 mo throughout the study. Changes in these parameters were assessed by General Linear Model (GLM) repeated measures analysis.

RESULTS: Serum concentrations of lutein and alpha-tocopherol increased with supplementation, although statistical significance was reached only in the lutein group. Visual performance (visual acuity and glare sensitivity) improved in the lutein group, whereas there was a trend toward the maintenance of and decrease in visual acuity with alpha-tocopherol and placebo supplementation, respectively. No significant side effects or changes in biochemical or hematologic profiles were observed in any of the subjects during the study.

CONCLUSIONS: Visual function in patients with age-related cataracts who received the lutein supplements improved, suggesting that a higher intake of lutein, through lutein-rich fruit and vegetables or supplements, may have beneficial effects on the visual performance of people with age-related cataracts.


Nutrition. Olmedilla B, Granado F, Blanco I, Vaquero M. Lutein, but not alpha-tocopherol, supplementation improves visual function in patients with age-related cataracts: a 2-y double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.
2003 Jan;19(1):21-4.

Key concepts: lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenoids, age-related macular degeneration, amd