General Health

Can Lutein Benefit Your Vision and Eye Health?

About 250 million people across the globe experience different levels of vision loss.

Certain eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataract, and AMD (age-related macular degeneration), are known to be causing this health problem. 

But, with a healthy dose of nutrients, you can ensure optimal eye health and avoid ocular disease. One such nutrient is lutein-a potent carotenoid with numerous beneficial properties. The question is, how exactly can this eye vitamin promote ocular health. Where can you get it, and how much lutein does the body really need?

Here, you will find all the answers to your questions. This is a detailed lutein guideline and its role in healthy vision.  

What Is Lutein?

Lutein is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are red, orange, and yellow organic pigments naturally present in algae, plants, fungi, and certain bacteria. Plenty of research shows that lutein is packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. 

That’s what makes it a key component in eye health. While a lutein supplement is meant to supply the system with a concentrated dose of this potent anti-inflammatory agent. 

Together with zeaxanthin (another valuable carotenoid), lutein can protect the eyes from damaging UV rays. According to research, high levels of zeaxanthin and lutein are associated with better vision and eye tissue health. As a matter of fact, healthy lutein and zeaxanthin intake can slow macular degeneration’s onset and progress. 

Why Is This Important?

Ever heard of macular pigment optical density (MPOD)? This is a measure that determines the macular pigment density, which functions as the eyes’ very own “internal sunglasses.” The denser the macular pigment, the better the eye protection. 

The primary carotenoids of the macular pigment are zeaxanthin, lutein, and meso-zeaxanthin. The macular pigment has a functional role in protecting the eye from light-induced retinal damage and AMD. With healthy pigment density, people enjoy vivid 20-20 color vision. 

Lutein ester boosts the macular pigment density in the retina and increases lutein concentration in the blood. It can quench the free radicals in the body with proper intake and keep the eyes in great shape. 

That’s exactly why dietary lutein has numerous benefits to offer. This pigment found in dark green leafy vegetables and other foods can prevent heart disease, clogging, and more. 

Lutein Benefits – What Does Research Have to Say?

A mountain of research can support lutein’s beneficial properties, particularly on ocular health. Lutein can prevent and ameliorate AMD, which is the primary cause of vision impairment and blindness. 

In fact, macular degeneration is the reason behind 8·7% of all cases of blindness on the globe, especially in individuals over the age of 60. But that’s not all. Data shows that lutein might have the potential to leave a positive impact on various clinical conditions. It can:

  • Enhance cognitive function

  • Promote heart health

  • Lessen the risk of cancer

  • Decrease oxidative stress (OS)

  • Shields the retina from oxidative damage

Since lutein can absorb 40% to 90% of incident blue light, it can efficiently lessen light-induced damage. There is also enough research to support its beneficial impact on contrast sensitivity and visual acuity. 

Enhance Cognitive Function

Recent data showed clear insight into lutein bioaccumulation and bioavailability. It seems that scientists believe these lutein effects can be useful for cognitive performance and brain development.

They’ve evaluated cognition in the elderly and found that lutein positively impacts brain tissue and general cognitive functions. These are all embedded in the brain tissue. By analyzing older adults, scientists found that avocado’s dietary intervention, which is a great source of lutein, can boost their cognitive functions. This proved to be a valuable improvement in patients older than 74 years of age.

Based on clinical research, this vitamin could stir up the immune system, end DNA mutation, and hinder pre-cancerous cell growth. The key to its effectiveness lies in its rich antioxidant properties

According to a 12-week study, taking lutein in the form of a dietary supplement showed significant amelioration in visual function. Experts studied 37 healthy adults who were divided into three groups. Each group regularly took different levels of serum lutein. Over time, due to the serum concentration, volunteers experienced an increase in visual acuity and function. Some who took the serum also had a better visual performance. 

But, it is safe to say that focusing on carotenoids early in life might have an even bigger impact. Especially when children start eating healthy from a very young age. Not only does it keep their eyes in optimal shape, but their entire body as well.  

Promote Heart Health

Data shows that subjects with high lutein levels in their system feature lower blood pressure. They are not that vulnerable to experiencing hypertension, compared to those who lack lutein in their system.

Furthermore, lutein may exert a cardioprotective effect. It can provide the body with therapeutic properties that could prove useful when treating various heart complications. It can be used to restore the proper flow of blood, limit or prevent contractile dysfunction, and decrease mortality rates associated with coronary artery disease.

More research is necessary to evaluate its full impact on heart illnesses, particularly in individuals prone to cardiovascular complications. So far, it seems that lutein can be highly beneficial for the cardiovascular system.

Lessen the Risk of Cancer

Scientists studied these vitamins in breast cancer patients. Despite their lack of retinoic acid activity, zeaxanthin and lutein are capable of reducing cell proliferation. This can impact estrogen signaling and mitigate the effects of certain hormone malignancies.

As a result, experts believe that they could prove beneficial for supplying the body with a protective influence against cancer. Plus, their high antioxidant, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory agents make them an even better option for optimal health. These are all necessary factors when helping the body reduce its risk of cancer.

Decrease Oxidative Stress (OS)

When there is a drastic disturbance in the balance between oxygen species and antioxidant defenses, the body goes through a series of changes. Its natural defense mechanism becomes impaired, leaving it vulnerable to numerous health complications. It is not uncommon for people with OS to experience eye problems. That’s why it’s important to try various methods to restore that balance.

Because lutein creates a neuroprotective effect, many studies associate it with the lessened OS. Therefore, the primary use of lutein supplementation is for protecting the outer retinal elements in patients with AMD. 

But, it could also prove valuable in protecting the inner retina from ischemia tissue damage and dysfunction. This is a condition that restricts blood flow to the tissues and results in oxygen shortages.

Shields the Retina from Oxidative Damage

Lutein is a powerful antioxidant. It is meant to filter the hazardous blue light and shield the retina. Compared to other carotenoids, lutein has the biggest filtering efficiency.

Animal research indicates that its clinical uses were mainly focused on AMD patients, which means that the reports we do have only focus on the effects of lutein on AMD affected individuals. However, it’s more than enough to conclude that it does have its perks.

Lutein can affect retinal elements and induce a therapeutic role. It can be useful for eye diseases, particularly in individuals who want to protect their retina from damage.

Overall, regular lutein consumption, either through vision supplements or diet, can decrease the impact of multiple chronic illnesses. However, to get the desired result, one must understand the proper daily dosages, ideal dietary sources, toxicity, and general efficiency of lutein for the eyes.

Lutein and Typical Eye Diseases

Eye disease can cause vision loss and impairment. Using zeaxanthin and lutein can have a profound impact on overall eye health. 

Lutein’s primary function is to suppress inflammatory response and the VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor). This makes it an efficient vitamin for decreasing the severity of certain eye diseases. 

Here is a detailed analysis of how this vitamin can benefit a specific eye condition.

  • Dry eye syndrome – The human eye is a fragile organ. It can easily be damaged and get infected. Healthy eyes produce plenty of lubrication to coat the organ. But, when the system doesn’t create that natural coating, the eyes can feel itchy and burning. This condition causes temporary blindness and red eyes. Studies indicate that lutein can lessen these symptoms and ease the discomfort. 

  • Cataract – This condition causes cloudy patches to form inside the eye, making it difficult to see. Based on a report, individuals who eat meals low in zeaxanthin and lutein could be prone to experiencing a cataract disease

  • Diabetic retinopathy (DR) – Exactly 35.4% (95 million) diabetic patients have DR. A third of those affected experience vision-threatening complications. While 7.6% struggle with macular edema. Even though data is limited, research shows that using lutein and zeaxanthin supplement could decrease OS markers and prevent vision loss. This kind of long-term supplementation can have a substantial impact on diabetic patients. 

  • Age-related macular degeneration – Without the right supplementation and treatment, AMD can induce permanent visual impairment and even blindness. Reports indicate that relying on lutein and zeaxanthin can help with macular degeneration and lessen the onset of the condition. In animal trials, lutein treatment drastically reduced lipid peroxidation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. This shows how effective it can be against inflammatory responses.

Lutein Dose – How Much Is Enough? 

There isn’t a single recommended dietary intake for zeaxanthin or lutein. According to the FDA, it is classified as a safe vitamin. The amount people eat varies based on their diet. And different diets offer various sources of this vitamin. 

For example, people who eat a Western-style diet consume 1.7 mg/d lutein a day. While regions where the Mediterranean diet is popular, they can eat anywhere between 1.07 to 2.9 mg/d a day. 

In Korea, where food variety matters, experts estimate that people eat around 3 mg/d. The regions where individuals have the highest lutein intake are the Pacific countries. Their diets are packed with veggies and fruits, particularly in the Fiji Islands. Here people can consume around 25 mg/d. 

To prevent AMD, people take 6 mg to 12 mg lutein a day. To reduce the symptoms, they can take anywhere from 10mg lutein to 20 mg daily. Patients with cataracts rely on 15 mg lutein three times a week to reduce the symptoms. Or some might take 10mg lutein plus 2mg zeaxanthin to ease the symptoms. All of these doses seem to be safe. 

Are There Any Adverse Effects?

If taken in normal doses, zeaxanthin or lutein supplements are considered safe to use. The good thing is, people haven’t experienced any serious side effects. However, consuming too much lutein from a nutritional supplement could cause carotenemia. This is a condition that results in yellow skin. Aside from the slight yellowing, this condition is harmless. 

But, that doesn’t mean everyone can use them. People with cystic fibrosis or skin cancer may be advised to avoid taking such supplements. 

So, consult with a doctor before you decide to add any changes to your dietary schedule. Do have in mind that options such as these are unregulated, which means that you can’t be certain how the body will react to them. 

Plus, certain products are not adequate for nursing or pregnant women. They may not be a good idea to use when you have an underlying health issue that requires constant medical treatment.  

Does That Mean It’s Safe?

Plenty of research can support the beneficial impact of lutein. As previously mentioned, it can help the eyes in more ways than one. But, many people are still worried about its safety. They don’t know if taking it in the form of a supplement would prove dangerous for their overall health. Here are a few facts that can help solve those misconceptions. 

  • Around 20 mg a day seems to be a safe dose for adults. Anything above that could cause skin yellowing. However, not much is known about its side effects. For now, the product hasn’t caused any serious adverse reactions. 

  • Just like any other supplement or medication, not everyone can take lutein. There is not enough research on how it can affect breastfeeding or pregnant women. That’s why some doctors may advise you not to take it. But, it all depends on your current health state.

  • Extremely high doses can cause skin discoloration. It can look very similar to jaundice. That’s why it’s important to control your intake and try to use a healthy dose of lutein. 

  • More research is necessary to understand the full impact of lutein in children. 

  • Currently, there aren’t any lutein studies that report its toxicity in chronic or acute lutein supplementation. 

Right now, lutein in a supplement is very popular. It holds a huge chunk of the pharmaceutical market. Statistics show that the lutein pharmaceutical market is estimated to be around $190 million. That makes it a common addition to food and nutraceutical categories. 

What most people don’t realize is that lutein is also used in pet food and fish feed. Not only is it helpful for the human body, but it is also safe for animals. A major section of the market is tailored towards products that boost ocular health. 

Recently, however, many topical products have emerged, promising to offer amazing skin benefits. But, most of its value comes from maintaining proper ocular health. In other words, it is seen as a safe product that has multiple uses. 

To make the most of it, it’s better to get lutein from healthy meals. 

What Foods Are Good Sources of Lutein?

Unfortunately, the body can’t create enough zeaxanthin or lutein. That’s why it’s critical that people eat the right foods or replenish their sources. Lutein is naturally present in numerous foods. 

You can find it in veggies, cereals, and even egg yolk. But in smaller doses. The truth is, one egg yolk has the highest lutein bioavailability than any food. Since your zeaxanthin and lutein intake will greatly depend on the food you eat, there are a couple of options that you should include in your daily diet. 

Here is a list of some fresh foods with the highest zeaxanthin and lutein content.

  • Paprika

  • Sweet potato

  • Pepper

  • Turnip greens

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Basil

  • Parsley

  • Arugula

  • Peas

  • Egg yolk

  • Lettuce

  • Squash 

  • Green beans

  • Papaya

  • Mango

There are also other food sources that have a great dose of lutein. These include:

  • Pistachios

  • Corn

  • Durum wheat

  • Einkorn wheat

The ideal way for the body to absorb this vitamin for eye disease is to get it from foods high in fat. The reason for that is due to the low-density lipoprotein. They are the primary way of transport for lutein across the system. 

Even though the main method of lutein intake is through diet and green leafy vegetables, people can try supplementation to replenish their sources. 

Additional Nutrients That Could Prove Useful for Ocular Health

Scientists combine zeaxanthin and lutein with other nutrients, like vitamin C and vitamin E. The reason for such an approach could be that a combination of these nutrients may do more for the eyes than taking either of them alone. Take a look at these vital nutrients below.

  • Vitamin E – This vitamin is a crucial antioxidant. When combined with lutein, it can shield the retinal cells from redox imbalance. That’s what makes it an essential component in the retina, for both peripheral and macular regions. 

  • Vitamin C – This is another antioxidant that aids in antioxidant regeneration, making it a key option for fighting free radicals. With long-term use, it could support the integrity of the connective tissues and blood vessels. Besides, the free radicals may be hazardous for the system. Therefore having anything that could prevent damage caused by them should become an essential part of your diet. 

  • Essential fatty acids – The retina is packed with a high DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) concentration level. This is a beneficial omega 3 fatty acid. Even though the fatty acids can’t undo retinal damage, they can preserve vision and soothe dry eyes symptoms.  

  • Zinc – The body can’t create or store its own Zinc. But, it is important when it comes to transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina. That way, the body gets to create melanin, which is a critical pigment in protecting the eyes. 

  • Vitamin D – As a multifunctional hormone, it can aid numerous biological functions. In studies, it was shown to have therapeutic potential for many ocular pathologies. In fact, people with a vitamin D deficiency are prone to developing AMD, myopia, and other eye problems. That’s why adding it to your diet can protect ocular health and even induce therapeutic properties by easing eye inflammation. 

Conclusion

Lutein is a highly beneficial carotenoid for ocular health. Its effects, perks, and concentrations are quite similar to zeaxanthin. This makes both of them useful for your vision. Since lutein is packed with antioxidants, it can aid with inflammation, enhance vision, and fight free radicals. All of its benefits make it a valuable component for avoiding or soothing certain eye conditions, such as macular degeneration. 

Even though there isn’t an exact dietary guideline, people can still consume healthy doses of lutein from their meals. If they want better zeaxanthin and lutein concentration, then they can focus on supplementation. 

Now that you know what lutein has to offer, you might want to add it to your diet. But, before you decide to make any changes to your diet, like increasing lutein doses or adding a supplement, consult with a doctor first. Make sure that whatever dose you take won’t interfere with your health condition. Talking to your doctor should be a top priority. 

Sources

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