Lutein Improves Visual Function in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Laurie Barclay, MD

April 08, 2004

April 8, 2004 -- Lutein improves visual function in patients with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), according to the results of the randomized, double-masked Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial (LAST), published in the April issue of Optometry.

"Low intake of lutein, the primary dietary carotenoid xanthophyll pigment responsible for macula pigment optical density (MPOD) in primates, is a major risk factor for advanced ARMD," write Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, from the VAMC Eye Clinic in North Chicago, Illinois, and colleagues.

In this prospective, 12-month trial, 90 patients with ARMD were randomized to receive 10 mg lutein alone, 10 mg lutein plus antioxidants/vitamins and minerals, or placebo.

In both lutein-treated groups, MPOD increased approximately 0.09 log units from baseline, and contrast sensitivity improved. Snellen equivalent visual acuity improved 5.4 letters in the lutein-only group and 3.5 letters in the lutein/antioxidant group. The lutein-only group also had a net subjective improvement in Amsler grid, and the lutein/antioxidant group had a nearly significant improvement in subjective glare recovery. The placebo group had no significant changes in any parameter tested.

Study limitations include mostly male subjects and lack of data on genetic mutations.

"Lutein supplementaion may be beneficial at all stages of ARMD," the authors write. "Further studies with more patients of both genders are needed to determine the long-term effect of lutein alone or lutein together with a broad spectrum of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals on patients with atrophic ARMD."

Kemin Foods and the DVA Medical Center supported this study.

Optometry. 2004;75(4):1-15

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD