Lutein and Zeaxanthin


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Lutein and Zeaxanthin containing vegetables

Lutein is an organic pigment which belongs to the family of carotenoids – which are known to have powerful antioxidant properties. It is also one of the primary pigment present in the macula of the eye. Lutein for eyes is extremely beneficial as it has powerful antioxidant properties and acts as a natural sunblock, protecting the eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein is found in dark green and leafy vegetables. Macular degeneration is an eye disorder which results in loss of central vision. It affects mostly people above 65 years old and can result in irreversible blindness. The factors which can increase the risk of macular denigration are exposure to UV rays, smoking, and alcohol intake.

How Does Lutein Protect the Eyes?

Lutein benefits in neutralizing free radicals. The free radicals are molecules which can damage the cells, affect the immune system, and can lead to degenerative diseases. Lutein acts as an antioxidant and protects the eyes from the action of free radicals. Sun damage can also cause degenerative eye disease. Lutein acts as a natural eyeshade and absorbs the harmful blue light from the sun. Thus, the intake of lutein for eyes is recommended as it plays an important role in protecting the eyes from disease. Several studies show that dietary intake of lutein decreases the risk of age-related eye disorders.

A study conducted by the American Optometrist Association showed that lutein intake decreases the risk of macular degeneration. Other studies show that increase in lutein intake helps the patients to recover from early signs of degenerative disease. Lutein taken in the diet is the best way to prevent eye diseases. Spinach, peas, leeks, lettuce, kale and egg yolk are some of the sources of lutein. You can also take lutein injections & supplements to protect your eyes. Lutein along with zeaxanthin, a co-nutrient, can keep be extremely beneficial to the eyes.

Zeaxanthin

There are two carotenoids which are found in the retina, Zeaxanthin is one of them. Zeaxanthin is a yellow coloured pigment which is mostly found in the plants. It has a number of strong antioxidant properties. The main function of Zeaxanthin in the retina is to protect the eyes from harmful blue light. It acts as a shield and filter to this light in order to protect its harmful effect on the eyes. Zeaxanthin also protects the eyes from macular degeneration, age-related cataracts, and other leading causes which could result in blindness over the age of 60 years. The main sources of Zeaxanthin are collard greens, spinach, corn and kale. 

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are Isomers

The carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in the retina. Zeaxanthin is dominant in the center of the macula which is about 75% of the total retinal space. Lutein is found at the periphery of the retina and predominates with 67% of sometimes more. The concentration of both these carotenoids is very less in the human tissues. The increase in the macular pigments is made through dietary supplements. Some studies have proved the co-relation between the pigment density of macular and the reduction in age-related macular degeneration risks. It has been found that more the quantity of pigment will be there the less will be the chances of macular degeneration. Actually, with the growing age, the amount of pigment in the retina also decreases which results in macular degeneration.

Food Sources of Lutein

The list of food sources which carry lutein and zeaxanthin in significant quantities

  • Sweet yellow corn
  • Whole kernel
  • Raw spinach
  • Drained, cooked or boiled Collards
  • Raw lettuce
  • Drained, green beans.
  • Drained, cooked or boiled Broccoli
  • Drained, cooked or boiled Celery
  • Raw peaches
  • Raw baby carrots
  • Raw celery
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard

Health Considerations

Carotenoids may play a role in the treatment and/or prevention of the following health conditions:

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Angina pectoris
  • Asthma
  • Cataracts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Heart disease
  • Laryngeal cancer 
  • Lung cancer
  • Male and female infertility
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Photosensitivity
  • Pneumonia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Skin cancer
  • Vaginal candidiasis

References

Eisenhauer, B.; Natoli, S.; Liew, G.; Flood, V.M. Lutein and Zeaxanthin—Food Sources, Bioavailability and Dietary Variety in Age‐Related Macular Degeneration Protection. Nutrients 2017, 9, 120.

Hammond, B.R., Miller, L.S., Bello, M.O., Lindbergh, C.A., Mewborn, C., Renzi-Hammond, L.M. (2017). Effects of Lutein, zeaxanthin supplementation on the Cognitive Function of Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Masked Front. Ageing Neuroscience. 

Landrum, J.T., Bone, R.A. (2001). Lutein, Zeaxanthin and the Macular Pigment.  Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Volume 305, Issue 1, page 28-40. 

Lindbergh, C., Mewborn, C., Hammond, B., Renzi-Hammond, L., Curran-Celentano, J., & Miller, L. (2017). Relationship of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Levels to Neurocognitive Functioning: An fMRI Study of Older Adults. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 23(1), 11-22. doi:10.1017/S1355617716000850

Ma, L.; Liu, R.; Du, J.H.; Liu, T.; Wu, S.S.; Liu, X.H. Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-zeaxanthin Supplementation Associated with Macular Pigment Optical Density. Nutrients 2016, 8, 426.

Mares, J. (2016). Lutein and Zeaxanthin Isomers in eye Health and Disease. Annual Review of Nutrition. Volume 36, pages 571-602. 

Neelam KGoenadi CJLun K, et al. Putative protective role of lutein and zeaxanthin in diabetic retinopathy. 

Nwachukwu, I.D., Udenigwe, C.C., Aluko, R.E. (2016). Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Production technology, bioavailability, mechanisms of action, visual function, and health claim status. Trends in Food Science and technology. Volume 49, pages 74-84. 

Rong Liu, Tian Wang, Bao Zhang, Li Qin, Changrui Wu, Qingshan Li, Le Ma; Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplementation and Association With Visual Function in Age-Related Macular DegenerationInvest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2015;56(1):252-258.

Wu J, Cho E, Willett WC, Sastry SM, Schaumberg DA. Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up. JAMA Ophthalmol.2015;133(12):1415–1424.

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