What is Lutein
Lutein is a carotenoid, a plant pigment responsible for the colors orange and yellow in many varieties of fruits and vegetables. The presence of Lutein usually marks a large amount of vitamin A so it’s no coincidence Lutein is abundant in carrots or egg yolks. Lutein usually accumulates in the eyes and researchers think it functions as an antioxidant which help reduce oxidative stress.
Some good sources of Lutein include:
The best way to eat them is raw of course, as lutein is a highly unsaturated structure and is quite unstable to heat and even UV light. Interestingly enough, lutein happens to be best absorbed when taken with fat just like vitamin A. The only good source of lutein with fat are eggs.
Eye Benefits of Lutein
Lutein is part of a group called “macular pigments” due to it being collected largely in the macula of the eye where it acts as a sort of blue light filter and protects retinal cells from oxidative stress. Lutein is being researched for its eye health benefits namely when it comes to Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD. As we all know, AMD can happen to anyone and sometimes it happens at an earlier age than most and is said to be an inevitable eye disease. Fortunately, research has found consuming a diet high in dietary lutein is associated with lower risks of AMD.
“The prevalence rate of AMD in patients with low antioxidant intake and low lutein intake (dichotomized at the median value) was about twice as high as that in patients with high intake“
Another interesting thing to note: Research has found dietary and supplemental lutein both aid in increasing total macular pigment levels, and is linked to eye-protective benefits particularly in the elderly.
“Increases in macular pigment (MP) density were obtained within 4 weeks of dietary modification for most, but not all, subjects. When MP density increased with dietary modification, it remained elevated for at least several months after resuming an unmodified diet. Augmentation of MP for both experimental and clinical investigation appears to be feasible for many persons.”
- Solomons NW, Bulux J. Plant sources of vitamin A and human nutrition revisited: recent evidence from developing countries. Nutr Rev. 1994;52(2 Pt 1):62-4.
- Snellen EL, Verbeek AL, Van den hoogen GW, Cruysberg JR, Hoyng CB. Neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its relationship to antioxidant intake. Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2002;80(4):368-71.
- Vishwanathan R, Goodrow-kotyla EF, Wooten BR, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ. Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(5):1272-9.
- Hammond BR, Johnson EJ, Russell RM, et al. Dietary modification of human macular pigment density. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997;38(9):1795-801.