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Lutein to Help Support Eye Health

Source: Journal of the American Diabetic Association, August, 2002

When you think about eye health, corrective lenses might be your first thought, but there is a reason to think nutrition too!

Your eyes need many different nutrients just as much as the rest of your body does. LUTEIN is a dietary component that deserves special attention when it comes to eye health.

What is lutein?

Lutein is a carotenoid found in fruits and vegetables and is responsible for producing their deep yellow-orange color. The highest concentration of lutein is found in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Lutein is also found in other foods such as corn, peas, tangerines, and tomatoes. Because the body cannot make lutein, it must be obtained from dietary sources.

Why is lutein important and how does it support eye health?

Lutein forms a yellow pigment in the eye and helps protect the eye by absorbing some damaging components of sunlight. Lutein is selectively concentrated in the lens of the eye and is responsible for the yellow coloration of the macular region of the retina. The macular region is responsible for central vision, i.e., looking straight ahead. Lutein is thought to play a role in eye health by protecting the delicate cells of the eye that are critical for central vision.

Is Lutein necessary in the diet?

Population studies suggest that people consuming the highest amount of lutein may be at lower risk for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible blindness for people over the age of 65 in the United States, Canada, and Europe (Seddon et al., 1994; Snodderly, 1995). The cause of AMD is not known, but some studies that measure blood carotenoid levels suggest protective effects against risk of AMD (EDCCSG, 1993). Cataracts are also a concern for the elderly, and although the cause of this condition is unknown, cataracts are thought to result from light-induced damage of proteins in the eye lens. Sunlight contains harmful rays and may contribute to damage and oxidative changes to the retina.

How does lutein work?

Lutein in the eye filters some of the damaging light from sunlight. Lutein also acts as an antioxidant and may play a role in protecting cells against the damaging effects of free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cell membranes and other tissues).