Lutein and Zeaxanthin
- It is believed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD).
- The crystalline lens (the natural lens in the eye) primarily collects and focuses light on the retina. To do this throughout your life, the lens must remain clear. Oxidation of the lens is a major cause of cataracts, which cloud the lens.
- Antioxidant nutrients neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules) that are associated with oxidative stress and retinal damage. This is why the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin likely play a role in preventing cataracts. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that higher dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin and vitamin E was associated with a significantly decreased risk of cataract formation.
How does Lutein work:
- When we eat foods with lutein or take lutein in supplement form, it’s believed to be pretty easily transported around the body, especially to the parts of the eyes called the macula and the lens. In fact, there are more than 600 different types of carotenoids found in nature, but only about 20 make their way into the eyes. Of those 20, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two that are deposited in high quantities into the macular portion of the eyes.
- The antioxidant abilities of lutein help to fight free radical damage caused by blue light or sun exposure, a poor diet and other factors that increase the risk of developing age-related vision loss or disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. In the process, antioxidants like lutein protect healthy cells while halting the growth of malignant cells.
- Within the eyes, one of the most important functions of the lens is to collect and focus light on the retina, which is exactly why the lens needs to remain “clear” and free from the cloudiness that is indicative of cataracts. The major reason the lens becomes cloudy is damage due to oxidation, which is why we need antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals.
- Even in people who have existing eye damage, including plenty of lutein in their diet can help stop the condition from progressing and further damaging vision. But lutein isn’t just beneficial for older adults — taking preventative measures is the real key to preserving your vision and eye health. Both older and younger people should consume plenty of lutein in order to reduce the risk of oxidative damage that can lead to disorders down the road.
- Although lutein and other carotenoids are extremely important for vision and your eyes, their benefits don’t stop there. Aside from protecting eyes, lutein is also used to help prevent skin disorders, several types of cancer including colon or breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and risk factors associated with coronary heart disease.