Lutein is often referred to as “the eye vitamin.” It is actually a carotenoid, which along with zeaxanthin, form the yellow pigment of the retina. It is in their role as antioxidants that it is believed they filter harmful blue wavelengths of light to protect the cells in the eyes. There are close to 600 carotenoids that have been identified in nature, and of these, only these two are found in high quantities in the retina of the eye. Research suggests that having a high level of lutein and zeaxanthin in the tissue of the eye is linked to better vision, especially when light levels are low or there is glare from sun or artificial light sources.
Loss of vision is one of the more serious issues facing millions of aging Americans and seniors all over the world. Currently, the leading causes of visual impairment and blindness in the U.S. are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Many studies have shown that lutein helps reduce the risk of these and other chronic eye diseases. Unfortunately, the body does not produce lutein on its own and has to look to an outside source.
So, where do we find these carotenoids that are so essential for maintaining healthy vision? Lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in green leafy vegetables, as well as other foods such as eggs. The ever-popular kale shares top billing with spinach for being the most nutrient dense, with collard and turnip greens, Swiss chard, broccoli and Brussel sprouts following. The lutein found in egg yolks is lower than that in many vegetables but it is highly absorbable, which ups its value. The one catch to eggs, however, is that heating damages the effectiveness of the lutein so it’s best to poach or soft-boil. The same is actually true of spinach: a raw salad is far more beneficial than a soufflé.
Although green leafy vegetables provide the most, there are other sources of lutein, such as vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, corn, peas and green beans. Fresh fruit, like oranges, melons, peaches, grapefruit, kiwi and grapes also contains small amounts. Adding a variety of sources increases the likelihood of consistently maintaining the levels of this essential substance.
Studies suggest that people should shoot for consuming at least 10 milligrams of lutein each day to get the most benefit when it comes to protecting and maintaining vision. Some of those benefits provided by lutein are:
It is always important to talk to your eye care professional about any questions concerning your vision. There may be dietary or nutritional supplement recommendations that would improve and help maintain the quality of your vision.
Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our four convenient Long Island office locations. For more information about cataracts, macular degeneration, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.