Vitamin & Nutrition Corner: Lutein

Lutein:  A Vital Antioxidant for Eye Health

After speaking last month about Vitamin A’s antioxidant protection in Macular Degeneration, Lutein is a great follow-up.   Lutein is a type of carotenoid, which is a natural pigment in vegetables and fruits.  Just like beta-carotene and Vitamin A, Lutein serves as a powerful antioxidant within your eyes and protects against the free-radical damage of aging and the sun.   In fact, Lutein has become a star within eye care’s discussion of nutrition in the management of Macular Degeneration.

The macula area of the retina is responsible for your fine, central vision.   And it’s interesting that of the 600 naturally occurring types of carotenoids, only two are found concentrated in the macula area of your retina:   Lutein and Zeaxanthin.   Intake of Lutein has been shown to increase the density of pigment cells within the macula, thus protecting vision in patients with Macular Degeneration.

Should you still be interested in Lutein if you don’t have Macular Degeneration? Yes!  Think blue light.  The high energy wavelengths of blue light, within the visible spectrum of light, can cause oxidative damage to your cells.   Lutein acts as a natural filter of blue wavelengths of light (not to be confused with ultraviolet or UV light).   Some studies say Lutein may be able to filter up to 90% of these harmful light rays, but keep in mind that 73% of all statistics are made up.   But the point is Lutein can help protect the macula area of your retina, and thus protect fine central vision whether or not you have Macular Degeneration.

Last month, I made special note of the side effects of vitamin overdose.  But Lutein is water-soluble.   Unlike Vitamin A, which is fat-soluble, excess Lutein will be excreted in urine and not build up in your tissues.  Excessive intake is not an issue with Lutein.   The recommended daily dose of Lutein is 6-20 mg.    Spinach is the greatest natural source of Lutein, and a large serving may constitute up to 15-20mg of Lutein.

How much Lutein:

  • The recommended dose is between 6-20 mg per day.

Where to get Lutein:

  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and leafy lettuce
  • spinach, eggs, corn
  • Synthetic vitamin supplements

Benefits of Lutein:

  • Filtering of blue light to protect macula area of retina against oxidative damage from visible light
  • Protect the macula in patients with Macular Degeneration
  • Increase the pigment density in the macula and possibly improve vision
  • May help fight certain types of cataracts
  • May promote favorable results on the thickening of artery walls in atherosclerosis
  • Possibly improve skin hydration