The Global Markets for Lutein in Human Nutrition report valued the market at $105.1 million (€78.4 million) in 2006, but the growing maturity of dietary supplements, its key end-user application segment, represents a challenge to the market. According to the report, manufacturers need to address this growing maturity in dietary supplements by identifying new and potentially lucrative application segments that offer opportunities for the continued growth of the lutein market. Lutein, a nutrient found in various foods including green leafy vegetables and egg yolk, has a ten-year history in the dietary supplement market as a nutrient to reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration (ADM). "Recent research into new application segments for lutein, such as skin health, is creating a lot of excitement in this industry," said Ashwin Sukumaran from Frost & Sullivan's North American food and beverage ingredients practice. "Building a strong scientific case for lutein's benefits in skin health would allow it to break into the lucrative, high-growth cosmeceutical application segment and help boost the market." Dietary supplements currently account for more than 90 per cent of lutein volumes, but its major markets, Europe and the United States, are exhibiting limited annual growth rates of two to three per cent. But a growing body of science supporting lutein's benefits in other emerging areas such as skin health, could allow manufacturers to penetrate the promising cosmeceutical application segment, says the report. The main strut of the research behind lutein remains its benefits for eye health, which augurs well for the future of the ingredient, says the report, since eye health ranks among the top five health concerns in the United States and various European countries. "One of the more important studies currently being carried out in this regard is the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), which specifically examines the effect of oral supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on the prevention of advanced AMD and cataract," said Sukumaran. "Industry participants believe that this study will provide definitive proof, if further is needed, of lutein's benefits in eye health." The report also points out that legislation remains a major challenge for the ingredient, especially when a manufacturer has a worldwide presence. The EU and the United States have clear directives governing the use of lutein in dietary supplements and functional foods. However, this is not the case in Asia where nutraceuticals and functional foods are largely unregulated while dietary supplements are regulated either as drugs or food, depending on the legislation in individual countries. "Currently, countries such as India, China and Vietnam are tightening their regulations, and with more national markets introducing regulations, the implications for lutein manufacturers are severe," said Sukumaran. "The technology, knowledge and certification process required to meet the demands of the European and US pharmacopoeia, as well as the new Asian markets, are expected to be a considerable challenge to this industry, having a medium impact throughout the forecast period."