“Lutein is ready to be considered for intake recommendations,” assert the authors of a new paper published online in the European Journal of Nutrition. Lutein, a carotenoid found in egg yolks, colorful fruits and vegetables, and dietary supplements, has gained attention from the nutrition research community for its potential role in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other eye issues, and the paper’s authors note that establishing a recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) value for the bioactive is “critically important” for advancing and improving public health.
“AMD is the leading cause of age-related blindness in industrialized countries,” said Jim Griffiths, Ph.D., vice president, scientific & international affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition International (CRN-I), and one of the paper’s six coauthors. “Establishing intake guidelines for lutein could encourage the consumption of lutein-containing foods and subsequently decrease the risk of age-related visual degradation and improve overall visual health. We hope policymakers and stakeholders take note of the strong research supporting the benefits of lutein and move forward with setting a DRI.”
In the paper, the authors cite a previously-developed set of nine criteria1 used to determine whether a bioactive is ready to be considered for DRI-like recommendations, and illustrate the ways in which lutein satisfies each. These criteria include: 1) an accepted definition; 2) a reliable analysis method; 3) a food database with known amounts of the bioactive; 4) cohort studies; 5) clinical trials on metabolic processes; 6) clinical trials for dose-response and efficacy; 7) safety data; 8) systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses; and 9) a plausible biological rationale. Based on the careful review of the literature supporting the criteria, the authors conclude that lutein should join the roster of those nutrients that already have DRI recommendations.
“Establishing a DRI recommendation for lutein would provide the public with yet another reason to eat more of the colorful fruits and vegetables lacking in our diets,” write the coauthors. “Many consumers purchase products containing lutein […] but they may not be aware of the science that supports its role in health or know the appropriate intake level.”
In addition to Dr. Griffiths, the paper’s coauthors are John W. Erdman Jr., Ph.D., Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Katharine M. Ranard and Sooyoung Jeon, Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Emily S. Mohn, Ph.D., and Elizabeth J. Johnson, Ph.D., Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University. The paper emanates from the poster “Extending the DRIs to Bioactives: Is Lutein Ready for the Major Leagues?” authored by Dr. Erdman, Dr. Griffiths, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Mohn, and Ms. Ranard, which was presented at the 18th International Carotenoids Society Symposium held in Lucerne, Switzerland earlier this year.
1. Lupton, J.R., Atkinson, S.A., Chang, N., Fraga, C.G., Levy, J., Messina, M., Richardson, D.P., van Ommen, B., Yang, Y., Griffiths, J.C. and Hathcock, J. (2014) Exploring the benefits and challenges of establishing a DRI-like process for bioactives. European Journal of Nutrition DOI 10.1007/s00394-014-0666-3.