Properties and Benefits of Lutein: A pigment with powerful antioxidant properties, lutein is physically found in our retina as well as in the macula lutea, a special area in the center of the retina.
Lutein is a carotenoid or an organic pigment found naturally in most green leafy vegetables and numerous yellow-orange plants. Basically, lutein protects our retina from free radicals from light, thus preserving the health of our eyes.
Lutein is essential for a healthy vision. Being a powerful antioxidant carotenoid, it helps prevent a condition called macular degeneration, or loss of central vision as a result of old age. Our body does not produce this nutrient itself, which is why diet is crucial for providing it.
Although there are currently no recommendations regarding how much lutein one should consume, a daily dose of 6 mg from food sources is said to be enough to prevent macular degeneration. If you are prescribed lutein food supplements by your doctor, then you should also make sure you are eating enough fats to help improve absorption.
Where is lutein found? Cabbage, romaine lettuce, leek, kale, dandelion greens, turnip greens, zucchini, spinach, peas, broccoli, carrots, egg yolk and yellow poultry fat are all great sources of lutein.
When there is an insufficient dietary intake of lutein, deficiencies may occur. However, there aren’t any specific signs and symptoms to indicate lutein deficiency like in the case of other nutrients such as vitamin C or vitamin B1. Nevertheless, preliminary studies indicate that a low dietary intake of lutein considerably increases the risk of developing cataract. On the other hand, individuals who consume moderate to high amounts of fruits and vegetables and thus have a good lutein intake from food sources show a 57% lower risk of developing cataract and macular degeneration.
Although there are no recommendations on how much lutein we should consume on a daily basis, we know for a fact that it is an essential nutrient for retina health. While science does its thing, we should keep to a healthy, varied, nutritious dietary regimen, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. This way we get important nutrients such as carotenoids like lutein, a potent ‘eye vitamin’ which protects our eyes from radiations and free radicals in sunlight.