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Lutein and Eye Health: How Does This Vitamin Support Vision?

Lutein and Eye Health

Your diet affects every single aspect of your health and wellbeing – and eyesight is no exception. But when it comes to supporting vision, the buck doesn’t stop with carrots, as the rumours suggest. One nutrient that works wonders for your peepers is lutein – an antioxidant powerhouse that’s even earned its stripes as the ‘eye vitamin’ (pretty telling, don’t you think?)i. Lutein protects your eyes from the damaging effects of free radicals – unstable molecules that wreak havoc with your cellular functions and strive to compromise eye health over time.


Where can you find lutein?

Lutein is a plant pigment that gives fruit and veggies their bright hues, in particular, those reddish and yellow colours found in honeydew melon, red peppers, grapes, and squash. Despite this, dark green veggies, like kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, and peas, are actually more abundant in lutein. Oddly enough, the chlorophyll hides the lutein, making them appear green in colour. Here’s some food for thought: compared to the humble carrot, containing 2.5-51.mg of lutein, kale packs a whopping 48-115mg per gram.

The human body is unable to produce the amount of lutein needed to keep your eyes healthy; it can only be synthesised through diet. When you munch on lutein-containing foods, they’re transported straight to the retina, where they protect your eyes from light-induced damage. Though further research is needed to determine exact dosage for eye health, getting 6-20mg of dietary lutein every day will keep your peepers happy and healthy, and may even decrease the risk of certain eye conditionsii. Pass the greens, please.


Protection from harmful UV rays

In nature, lutein plays a vitally important role for plants, safeguarding them from excessive sun damage by absorbing harmful blue light energy. Your body processes lutein in a similar way. Deposited in the macular of your eye, this compound helps to protect your delicate light receptor cells by filtering out potentially destructive wavelengthsiii. Think of it as a natural sunblock. This doesn’t mean shouldn’t wear shades, though (even if you are eating kale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Be sure to wear sunglasses on bright, sunny days. Yes – even in winter.


Support for ageing eyes

Age-related changes in the eye is one of the leading causes of blindness globally. Though the exact origin of the condition is still unknown, experts believe oxidative stress – that is, damage caused by those pesky free radicals – is a key component. Indeed, since the retina is exposed to sunlight and oxygen, it’s especially vulnerable to oxidative stress.

Lutein has demonstrated great promise in protecting the eyes from such damage. Countless scientific studies have highlighted the positive relationship between higher intakes of dietary lutein and a reduced risk of age-related changesiv. Two findings published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science discovered eyes with higher concentrations of macular pigments, like lutein, were less likely to develop certain age-related changesv. Similar conclusions were attained in a study published by the Archives of Biochemistry. The investigation revealed lutein, along with the carotenoids zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, have the capacity to filter short-wave length light and decrease the production of free radicals in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of age-related changesvi. Of course, it worth noting other factors, especially smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity, may increase the likelihood of age-related changes, too. Time to replace your tipple with a green smoothie, perhaps?


Final thoughts

When it comes to securing a lifetime of good vision, the importance of nutrition can’t be stressed enough. Antioxidants, like lutein, play a crucial role in protecting your peepers from free radical damage, which pave the way for a host of age-related changes. Beyond lutein, make a conscious effort to eat more eye-friendly foods in general; healthy fats (oily fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds) vitamin C (citrus fruits and blueberries), beta-carotene (carrots and sweet potato), and vitamin A (eggs) are bursting with nourishment for your peepers. Nutrition aside, don’t forget to practise good eye hygiene, too: whip out the sunnies on bright days and stub out the smokes. Your eyes will thank you for it in the long run.



References:

  1. , , , & The role of lutein in eye-related disease. Nutrients, 5(5), 1823-39.

  2. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 272(18), 1413-1420.

  3. & The Photobiology of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Eye. Journal of ophthalmology, 687173.

  4. , , , , , & Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(03), 350-359.

    , , , , , & Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Diet and Serum and Their Relation to Age-related Maculopathy in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. American Journal of Epidemiology, 153(5), 424-432.

    Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 272(18), 1413-1420.

  5. , , , , & Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lutein in Retinal Ischemic/Hypoxic Injury: In Vivo and In Vitro Studies. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 53(10), 5976.

  6. , & Studies on the singlet oxygen scavenging mechanism of human macular pigment. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 504(1), 56-60.





 

 

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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