Many people think of lutein as "the eye vitamin." They use it to prevent eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, eye strain, an inherited condition that causes vision loss (choroideremia), and a certain eye disease that affects the retina (retinitis pigmentosa).
Some people also use it for preventing numerous cancers, type 2 diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, cognitive function, high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), and heart disease. Lutein has also been used to prevent complications in infants that are born too early and have low birth weight.
Many multivitamins contain lutein. They usually provide a relatively small amount of 0.25 mg per tablet.
An eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). People who eat higher amounts of lutein in their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing AMD. But people who already eat high amounts of lutein don't seem to benefit from increasing their intake even more. Taking lutein supplements for up to 36 months can improve some symptoms of AMD. But it does not seem to prevent AMD from becoming worse. Research on the use of supplements containing lutein and other ingredients shows conflicting results.
Cataracts. Eating higher amounts of lutein is linked with a lower risk of developing cataracts. Taking supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin reduces the risk of developing cataracts that require surgical removal in people who eat low amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin as part of their diet. Also, taking lutein supplements seems to improve vision in older people who already have cataracts and do not already consume a lot of lutein and zeaxanthin.