Lutein, a fat-soluble carotenoid with antioxidant properties, may have an effect on respiratory health. However, the evidence is inconsistent. We aimed to cross-sectionally investigate the association between lutein intake and lung function by measuring forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC) and FEV1/FVC% in adults (aged 45–79 years). We included 4402 participants from the Rotterdam Study, a prospective cohort study in The Netherlands. Lutein intake was assessed using a validated FFQ. Lung function was assessed using spirometry around the same time point as the dietary assessment. No independent association was found between lutein intake and FEV1 (−12·17 (95 % CI −34·21, 9·87) ml per sd increase in lutein) after adjustment for age, sex, height, cohort effect, ethnicity, education, weight, total daily energy intake, smoking status, physical activity, and intakes of fatty acids, dietary fibre, alcohol, β-carotene, β-crypotoxanthin, lycopene and zeaxanthin. There was also no association between lutein and FVC or FEV1/FVC%. However, after stratification by smoking status, lutein intake was significantly associated with lower FEV1/FVC% in current smokers (−1·69 (95 % CI −2·93, −0·45) % per sd increase of lutein) independent of other carotenoids. The present study does not support an independent association between lutein intake and lung function in adults. However, future studies should focus on the potential inverse association between high lutein intake and lung function in specific risk groups such as smokers.