Lutein Background and Benefits
Lutein is a pigment produced by many plants, that also affects the coloration of animals eating those plants. Low levels of lutein produce a yellow color in chicken fat and plant leaves after they lose their chlorophyll in the fall. Higher concentrations of lutein provide an orange or red color, as is the case with some fish and shellfish.
Only plants can synthesize lutein, so animals must obtain it in their diet. The most common dietary sources of lutein are leafy green vegetables such as collard greens, kale and spinach. Additional plant sources include peas, lettuce, zucchini, broccoli and carrots. Animal fat and eggs are also a good source of lutein, especially the yolks. Lutein is easier to absorb with a high-fat meal.
Lutein moderates photosynthesis in plants by suppressing the overproduction of chlorophyll, which can be detrimental to plants exposed to high levels of sunlight. The most obvious biological use of lutein in animals is the absorption of blue light, typically for the purpose of coloration. For example, lutein intake affects the pigmentation of the macula (part of the retina that is responsible for colour vision.)
Lutein also performs various antioxidant functions, which support the body’s natural ability to manage damage by free radicals. The most significant benefit of lutein is the support for eye health, especially among the elderly.
Uses of Lutein
Supplements containing lutein support eye health, especially for those who do not obtain sufficient lutein in their diets. It may also support memory recall.
Eye health support
Lutein provides support for eye health, especially against normal age-related conditions of the eye.
Blood sugar level management
Some studies suggest that lutein may help support the body’s natural ability to manage and regulate blood sugar levels.
Memory recall support
A combination of lutein and docosahexanenoic acid (DHA) for four months may help support memory recall in older women, according to one study.
Signs You May Need Lutein
You may need lutein if your diet is low in fruits and leafy vegetables. Current research indicates that adults should receive at least 10 milligrams of lutein per day. The most common signs of a lutein deficiency include poor eye health and function. Children with poor diets may also require lutein in their supplementation.
Additional signs that you may benefit from lutein include poor joint and liver health as well as metabolic syndrome.
Other Ingredients That May Be of Interest
Zeaxanthin - Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that commonly occurs in nature. It provides many plants with their color, including red bell peppers, corn, wolfberries and saffron. Zeaxanthin supplements are also taken to maintain eye health.
Astaxanthin - Astaxanthin is another xanthophyll that gives plant leaves a yellow color in the fall. It also provides a red color to salmon meat and cooked shellfish.