– Lutein is a compound known as a carotenoid (Vitamin). It's found in moderate amounts in some fruits and vegetables, particularly green, leafy vegetables. Because carotenoids like lutein are antioxidants, they're believed to protect the eye from exposure to blue light, a portion of the visible light spectrum that can damage tissues of the eye. read more about lutein » | find answers to your vitamins questions »
A number of studies show that carotenoids like lutein may protect against two of the most common eye conditions that lead to visual loss with age – age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. AMD is the number one cause of age-related visual loss and results in gradual loss of central vision. There’s also some evidence that a higher intake of carotenoids like lutein may improve symptoms of AMD when in its early stages.
How Can I Prevent Cataracts?
A higher intake of carotenoids has also been linked to a lower risk for the development of severe cataracts. Cataracts are characterized by clouding of the lens of the eye. This makes it difficult to see clearly, especially at night. Cataracts become more common with age and gradually cause deterioration in vision.
Lutein and Cancer
Because lutein is an antioxidant, some preliminary research suggests it may reduce the likelihood of other diseases such as cancer and possibly heart disease. Some studies have shown a link between carotenoid consumption and a reduced risk for breast cancer and colon cancer. More research is needed to look at the role lutein and other carotenoids might play in reducing cancer risk.
Do I Need Lutein?
Even though you can get lutein naturally through diet, most people don’t consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the quantity experts now recommend for health. Most people’s diets are relatively low in lutein because they don’t consume enough lutein-rich foods. There’s no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lutein but experts believe most people need between 6 to 10 milligrams of lutein a day for eye health.
Food Containing Lutein
Lutein is found naturally in some whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, most people tolerate it well in foods and in supplement form. Carotenoids are stored in the body and deposited on skin. At high doses they can build up in the skin and lead to a yellow or orange discoloration of the skin, a condition known as carotenosis. Despite its appearance, carotenosis is a benign condition that resolves once a person decreases their carotenoid consumption. Vegetarians who eat large amount of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables, particularly those that consume them in concentrated forms like juice, are at higher risk for this skin condition.
All in all, lutein is an important nutrient for eye health that many people don’t get enough of through diet alone. There are lutein supplements available that supply it in an easy-to-take form. Some doctors recommend such supplements to patients concerned about maintaining healthy vision. Talk to your doctor and find out whether a lutein supplement is right for you.