Crystal gazing

Lutein-rich smoothies and nutrient supplement linked to crystal deposits in macular region of patient


The case of a woman who was referred to a retinal clinic for crystal deposits in the macular regions of her eyes highlights the importance of targeting supplements only to patients who require them, researchers emphasise.

Despite having no history of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or vision issues, the woman took a daily 20mg lutein supplement on top of a diet naturally rich in the nutrient. Each morning, she consumed a broccoli, kale, spinach and avocado smoothie.

Based on the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) findings, the recommended daily dose of lutein for a patient with AMD is 10mg. Therefore, the patient was consuming more than double this dose, for the eight years she had been taking the supplement for.

University of Utah ophthalmologist and vision scientist, Professor Paul Bernstein, measured the levels of the carotenoid in the patient’s serum, skin and retina and found levels double that of a person not taking supplements.

He explained in the paper published in the JAMA Ophthalmology journal that: “The patient quit taking the lutein supplement, but maintained her diet rich in lutein, and, after seven months, the crystals in her right eye disappeared.”

He advised that an “eye-healthy diet” with plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables was important for all people. However, lutein supplements are not needed unless AMD is diagnosed, Professor Bernstein emphasised.

Fellow university researcher, Dr Rene Choi, told OT that: “Optometrists should consider asking about a patient’s diet and dietary supplement use prior to prescribing AREDS2 [formulations]. Patients should be advised that consuming lutein at levels higher than the recommended AREDS2 dose may lead to negative effects.”

However, a larger clinical study is necessary to confirm the findings of the case study, the researchers highlighted.