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Lutein: The "Eye Vitamin"

Lutein, known by many as the ‘Eye Vitamin’, is a xanthophyll, a yellow pigment found in many plants and vegetables. Xanthophylls belong to a class of organic compounds called carotenoids, which also includes orange and red plant pigments such as those found in carrots. Lutein has long been used to prevent eye diseases such as cataracts, vision loss, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Lutuntitled1.pngein is found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye, giving the macula its yellowish appearance. The macula is located in the center of the retina and is responsible for detailed central vision. Lutein works as an eye-protector by acting as a filter for high energy blue light. Blue wavelength light is believed to induce oxidative stress and free-radical damage in the human organs[1].

optigold.pngCataract is an eye condition that involves the clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. It is the most common cause of blindness and is usually caused by the degradation of lens proteins. According to several studies, Lutein can help slow or prevent cataracts by reducing the breakdown of proteins with its antioxidant properties. In a Wisconsin University-based study, women with diets high in Lutein experienced a 23% reduced risk of cataracts[2].

A number of studies have also found that Lutein can help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a medical condition which usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the macula due to damage of the retina. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in 50+ adults. A study conducted by Gale et al.[3] demonstrated that higher levels of Lutein in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of AMD. Another research published by Bone et al.[4] found that a nutritional supplement containing Lutein effectively increased the optical density of the macular pigment in eyes, which leads to better protection against the development of macular degeneration.

In addition to the eye and vision benefits, Lutein may help protect again atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits in arteries), and boost the immune system with its antioxidant properties.

[1] Angelika Junghans, Helmut Sies,and Wilhelm Stahl. (July 2001). “Macular Pigments Lutein and Zeaxanthin as Blue Light Filters Studied in Liposomes.” Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 391(2): 160-164.

[2] Moeller SM, Voland R, Tinker L, et al. (March 2008). “Associations between age-related nuclear cataract and lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and serum in the Carotenoids in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS), an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative. CAREDS Study Group; Women’s Health Initiative.” Arch Ophthalmol. 126(3):354–364.

[3] Catharine R. Gale, Nigel F. Hall, et al. (January, 2003). “Lutein and Zeaxanthin Status and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 44:2461-2465.

[4] Richard A. Bone, John T. Landrum, Luis H. Guerra, and Camilo A. Ruiz. (April 2003). “Lutein and Zeaxanthin Dietary Supplements Raise Macular Pigment Density and Serum Concentrations of these Carotenoids in Humans.” J Nutr. 133:992-998.