Lutein is a naturally-occurring carotenoid that can be found in a number of vegetables and fruits, as well as egg yolks. It’s found commonly within the macula in the eye, with smaller amounts located around the optic nerve, lens, and retina. Alongside other high-potency antioxidant substances, lutein can help with blocking out blue light which might cause damage to the eyes.
What Are Lutein Supplements?
Lutein is regarded by many to be an “eye vitamin” and it’s a form of antioxidant that is best known for its ability to promote eye health. In general, the more colors you have in your diet, the more lutein you are getting, as lutein is generally found in brightly colored produce like vegetables and fruits.
At present, most doctors suggest that the Standard American Diet that most of us rely upon today does not provide enough lutein for the body. Since it’s impossible for the human body to synthesize this substance on its own, we need to find ways to obtain these crucial nutrients from supplements and dietary additions.
While it’s generally a good idea get lutein through a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, nutritional supplements can also be a great way of boosting your lutein level quickly and effectively. Getting enough of this helpful substance in your system could help with everything from disease prevention, to boosting your metabolism and more.
Benefits of Lutein Supplements
As we begin to age, the level of lutein within our bodies will typically decrease because our bodies cannot produce it. People with blue eyes, people who smoke, and women in the postmenopausal stage of life have also been found to struggle with low levels of lutein. Fortunately, you can replenish the amount of lutein in your body through nutritional supplementation and diet.
Research has found that taking around 15 to 40 mg of lutein daily can offer the best possible protection for most people. Since most individuals struggle to eat enough leafy, green vegetables and egg yolks, the average amount of lutein we get in our diet is about 2 mg a day. This is why supplements can be such an important consideration.
When we take lutein in supplemental form or eat foods with lutein, the substance is transported quickly and easily around the body, particularly to the lens and macula of the eye. It should be noted that there are more than 600 different carotenoids in the natural world, but only around 20 can actually have an impact on our eye sight.
The antioxidant behavior of lutein helps to fight back against the free radical damage that we all experience as a result of blue light and sun exposure, as well as other factors, such as poor diet. This can reduce our risk of suffering from cataracts, macular degeneration, and age-related loss of vision. What’s more, lutein helps to protect healthy cells while removing malignant or dangerous cells.
In the human eye, one of the most important functions to think about is the ability of the lens to focus light onto the retina. This requirement is why the lens needs to remain clear from the cloudiness that comes with cataracts. The major reason why this cloudiness occurs is over-exposure to oxidation, which is why antioxidants are so essential. Interestingly, even for people who are already suffering from eye damage, an increased amount of lutein in a diet can prevent the condition from progressing any further and leading to additional damage.
Lutein isn’t just an essential substance for older people either. The best way to preserve your health in several different ways is to take preventative measures. Both younger and older people alike should be looking for ways to consume plenty of lutein to reduce their risk of oxidative damage that can cause disorders in later life.
Benefits of Lutein for the Eyes
Lutein is often regarded by experts to be a natural form of treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is known to be the most common cause of blindness among older adults. Estimates suggest that over 25 million across the world today are affected by AMD and cataracts. This particularly applies to people aged 55 and above, and those who are living in industrialized areas and Western nations. The incidence of AMD is also expected to triple by around 2025, according to the American Optometric Association.
Lutein helps to protect eyesight by assisting in filtering out some of the damaging short-wavelength UV light that can be absorbed and negatively affects delicate areas within the eye. Researchers from Harvard suggest that supplementing with as little as 6 mg of lutein can be enough to reduce the risk of macular degeneration by around 43%.
In the same way, various other studies have shown that the higher dietary intake of lutein and other substances, such as zeaxanthin and vitamin E, can be associated with a significantly lower risk of cataract formation in adults. While research in this area is still within the early stages, taking a lutein supplement three times a week for a period of up to two years has been shown by studies to improve vision in people who are already suffering from cataracts.
The benefits of lutein in regards to eye health are very wide-ranging, and can include helping to reduce fatigue in the eye itself, as well as limiting light sensitivity and glare-related problems. This all helps to keep the retina and lens of the eye in their appropriate densities, while strengthening eye tissue and ensuring that vision remains clear and accurate.
One important thing to keep in mind about eye health is that each person is different in regards to how much lutein will be beneficial. It’s possible that some people who have a high intake of foods that are rich in antioxidants will still find that they suffer from eye problems, even though they have significant amounts of lutein. Sometimes, this problem occurs because the eye is unable to absorb lutein in the way that it should. Fortunately, doctors today can measure the pigment levels within the macular segment of the eye. This measurement can help medical professionals to determine whether a person is at an increased risk of eye-related diseases.
By simply performing a small and easy test known as a macular pigment optical density test, or MPOD, doctors and opticians can offer a better insight into eye care for their patients. In some cases, this might include recommending that people take regular amounts of lutein supplements. On the other hand, some doctors may recommend that their patients make changes to their diet and lifestyle based on their individual responses to various stimuli, and their genetic predisposition. It’s worth noting that eye health has a lot of factors involved.
Other eye benefits associated with lutein intake may include:
- Strengthened eye tissue
- Promotion of normal visual function
- Healthier lens density
- Support of visual acuity
- Less glare problems
- Healthier eyes with fewer fatigue issues
Other Benefits of Lutein
Meanwhile, although lutein is incredibly powerful when it comes to preventing eye-related health problems such as dry eye syndrome, it’s worth noting that supplements may also provide health boosts in other areas of the body. For example, recent research has shown that the benefits of lutein actually extend far beyond vision. In some studies, it has been found that lutein is able to support the function of the brain and enhance learning and memory abilities. This research suggests that lutein represents one of the most dominant carotenoids in the brain, and the substance can get involved with neural functions and visual processing in the brain. In relation to this, some people with mild cognitive impairments have been found to have a reduced amount of lutein in their system. In these circumstances, boosting lutein levels with supplements was found to help improve memory and brain function.
In a study where elderly women took around 12 mg of lutein each day, the verbal recall scores obtained through tests were significantly improved. Because lutein helps to promote visual processing speed, other brain health benefits of lutein can mean overall better brain efficiency. What’s more, lutein has some part to play in various other functions throughout the body, including:
- Maintaining positive heart health. Some studies have shown that lower levels of lutein in the body might contribute to the thickening in artery walls that raises the risk of arteriosclerosis and clogging in arteries.
- Reducing the risk of cancer, or acting as a natural treatment for cancer by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress
- Lowering the risk of diabetes, although these studies are currently limited to animals and require further exploration to provide a definitive answer
- Protecting skin health and fighting back against light-induced skin damage and cancers. This is in part because lutein helps to fight against oxidative stress.
Resources and References:
6 Natural Treatments for Macular Degeneration – An examination of the natural treatments associated with macular degeneration, including lutein (draxe.com)
Benefits of Lutein – An in-depth insight into the various benefits that lutein has to offer (DrWhitaker.com)