Lutein’s Role in Optimal Eye and Brain Health

Image: Actual lutein scores from attendees at the 2018 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo®.

Lutein is an important carotenoid that has been shown to act as internal sunglasses, protecting our eyes from harmful blue light. It also prevents against macular degeneration and other age-related eye diseases. Emerging research shows lutein’s benefits may extend beyond eye health, impacting cognitive function and brain health across the lifespan.

Last week at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE®), researchers Elizabeth Jonson, PhD, from Tufts University and Naiman Khan, PhD, RD, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented on the science supporting lutein’s role in eye and brain health.

Below are key takeaways from the session:

  • Current intake of lutein is lower than what is needed for optimal eye and brain health.
  • Lutein levels in the eye and brain can be measured through a non-invasive eye test that assesses macular pigment, known as Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD).
  • Children with greater macular pigment optical density have better executive function, relational memory and academic performance. Find out more here.
  • Research demonstrates that brain lutein levels are associated with cognitive function in the elderly.1
  • A diet with lutein-containing foods could be an effective strategy for protecting eye and brain health. Lutein-containing foods include: eggs, green leafy vegetables and avocados.
  • Lutein bioavailability is enhanced when it is consumed with dietary fat, therefore lutein from eggs has shown to be greater than other sources.2
  • Research has shown positive effects on eye disease prevention at dietary intake levels of ~6mg/day.3

There is currently no Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for lutein, leaving a gap of awareness around this critical nutrient.

Download our free educational resource on lutein here.



  1. Johnson, E. J., Vishwanathan, R., Johnson, M. A., Hausman, D. B., Davey, A., Scott, T. M., . . . Poon, L. W. (2013). Relationship between Serum and Brain Carotenoids,α-Tocopherol, and Retinol Concentrations and Cognitive Performance in the Oldest Old from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Journal of Aging Research,2013, 1-13.

  1. Chung, H., Rasmussen, H. M., & Johnson, E. J. (2004). Lutein Bioavailability Is Higher from Lutein-Enriched Eggs than from Supplements and Spinach in Men. The Journal of Nutrition,134(8), 1887-1893.

  1. Seddon, J. M. (1994). Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association,272(18), 1413-1420.