Lutein for Preventing Macular Degeneration

Lutein May Decrease Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

by George Torrey, Ph.D.

Lutein is the dominant component in the peripheral retina. Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and associates at Harvard University found that 6 mg per day of lutein led to a 43% lower risk for macular degeneration (1). Lutein supplements are available in soft-gel capsule form. They should be taken at mealtime because lutein is absorbed better when ingested with a small amount of fat, such as olive oil.

The following chart shows those foods that contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin (Zeaxanthin is the dominant carotenoid in the central macula).


Recommended dosage: 6 mg (6,000 mcg) to 30 mg (30,000 mcg) daily

PER 100 g
Kale, raw 39,550 mcg 22,148 mcg 1 cup
Kale, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
15,798 mcg 16,903 mcg 1/2 cup
Turnip Greens, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
8,440 mcg 9,030 mcg 1/2 cup
Collards, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
8,091 mcg 8,657 mcg 1/2 cup
Spinach, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
7,043 mcg 7,536 mcg 1/2 cup
Spinach, raw 11,938 mcg 6,685 mcg 1 cup
Broccoli, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
2,226 mcg 1,736 mcg 1/2 cup
Corn, drained
sweet, yellow, cooked, boiled, without salt
1,800 mcg 1,476 mcg 1/2 cup
Lettuce, raw
cos or romaine
2,635 mcg 1,475 mcg 1 cup
Peas, drained solids
green, canned, regular pack
1,350 mcg 1,147 mcg 1/2 cup
Brussels Sprouts, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
1,290 mcg 1,006 mcg 1/2 cup
Corn, drained solids
sweet, yellow, canned, whole kernel
884 mcg 724 mcg 1/2 cup
Beans, drained
snap, green, cooked, boiled, without salt
700 mcg 385 mcg 1/2 cup
Tangerine juice, fresh 166 mcg 307 mcg 3/4 cup
Orange juice, frozen concentrate
unsweetened, diluted
138 mcg 257 mcg 3/4 cup
Oranges, fresh
all commercial varieties
187 mcg 244 mcg 1 medium
Papayas, fresh 75 mcg 228 mcg 1 medium
Tangerines, fresh
(mandarin oranges)
243 mcg 204 mcg 1 medium
Lettuce, raw
iceberg (includes crisphead types)
352 mcg 197 mcg 1 cup
Okra, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
390 mcg 195 mcg 1/2 cup
Celery, drained
cooked, boiled, without salt
250 mcg 187 mcg 1/2 cup
Vegetable juice cocktail, canned 80 mcg 145 mcg 3/4 cup
Celery, raw 232 mcg 139 mcg 1/2 cup
Tomato juice, canned
without salt
60 mcg 109 mcg 3/4 cup
Orange juice, fresh 36 mcg 67 mcg 3/4 cup
Peaches, fresh 57 mcg 49 mcg 1 medium
Tomatoes, canned
red, ripe, whole, regular pack
40 mcg 48 mcg 1/2 cup
Carrots, raw
358 mcg 35 mcg 1 medium
Melons, fresh
40 mcg 32 mcg 1 wedge
Grapefruit, fresh
pink and red
13 mcg 18 mcg 1 medium

mcg = micrograms; 1000 micrograms = 1 mg

Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.

Dr. Seddon concludes that increasing the consumption of foods rich in lutein may decrease the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In his book Overcoming Macular Degeneration, Dr. Yale Solomon writes that lutein is particularly important because it is absorbed from the above foods and transported in relatively large quantities to the macula and the lens of the eye. In each of these areas it has a specific, helpful antioxidant action. Lutein may lower the risk of developing AMD and even cataracts, and might prevent advancement in people who are mildly to moderately impaired with these eye diseases.

According to Billy Hammond (2), studies have suggested that individuals differ in their ability to absorb nutrients from food into their tissues. Some individuals can have a relatively high intake of fruits and vegetables, and high nutrient blood levels, but low levels of retinal nutrients. The ability to measure macular pigment in the living organism may allow doctors to identify such individuals and determine whether they are at special risk for disease. Mr. Hammond writes, “In the future we may be able to use such technology to tailor our dietary recommendations based on individual responses rather than relying on averaged effects.”

The information on nutrition is important information for everyone – not just those already diagnosed with macular degeneration. The AMDF encourages everyone, including younger people, to follow these nutritional guidelines so that they may reduce their risk of developing macular degeneration.

For more information on lutein, see the Lutein Information Bureau site and the results of The Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial (LAST).

George Torrey, Ph.D., a graduate of Brown (‘61), Harvard (‘62) and the Univ. of Connecticut (‘68), writes for the AMDF Newsletter and the AMDF Web site. Both his parents suffered from macular degeneration.

1. Johanna M. Seddon et al, 1994, Journal of American Medical Association 272:1413-20.

2. Co-author of an article in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (Feb. 1998, Vol. 39, No. 2).