HEALTHY SKINLutein can also reduce the risk of skin cancer and sunburn. Under influence of sunlight, free radicals are formed inside the skin. These free radicals can damage the DNA of cells. Lutein can protect against the damaging effects of UV-B radiation. Studies have also shown that Lutein reduces inflammation and redness in the skin, and may even help prevent skin cancer. In addition to the eyes and skin, Lutein is deposited in the breast and cervix. Studies indicate that Lutein and other Carotenoids may have protective benefits against breast cancer risk.
ROLE IN HUMAN EYESLutein was found to be present in a concentrated area of the macula, a small area of the retina responsible for central vision. The hypothesis for the natural concentration is that Lutein helps protect from oxidative stress and high-energy light. Various research studies have shown that a direct relationship exists between Lutein intake and pigmentation in the eye. Several studies also show that an increase in macula pigmentation decreases the risk for eye diseases such as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The only randomized clinical trial to demonstrate a benefit for Lutein in Macular Degeneration was a small study, in which the authors concluded that more study was needed.
Lutein is a natural part of human diet when fruits and vegetables are consumed. For individuals lacking sufficient Lutein intake, Lutein-fortified foods are available, or in the case of elderly people with a poorly absorbing digestive system, a sublingual spray is available. As early as 1996, Lutein has been incorporated into dietary supplements. While no recommended daily allowance currently exists for Lutein as for other nutrients, positive effects have been seen at dietary intake levels of 6 mg/day. The functional difference between Lutein (free form) and Lutein esters is not entirely known. It is suggested that the bioavailability is lower for Lutein esters, but much debate continues.
On September 10, 2007, in a 6-year study, researchers led by John Paul San Giovanni of the National Eye Institute, Maryland found that Lutein and Zeaxanthin (nutrients in eggs, spinach and other green vegetables) protect against blindness (macular degeneration), affecting 1.2 million Americans, mostly after age 65. Lutein and Zeaxanthin reduce the risk of AMD (journal Archives of Ophthalmology).
Lutein and Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD)Research has suggested a minimum of 6-10 mg per day of Lutein is necessary to realize Lutein’s health benefits. One such benefit is Lutein’s role in eye health, specifically its role in reducing the risk of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
AMD occurs when the fragile centre of the retina-the macula-deteriorates from a lifetime of slow but steady damage. The macula is a small area of the retina responsible for central vision, and high visual acuity. Poor macular health can cause oxidative stress within the retina, leading to a loss of central vision.
According to AMD alliance International dry AMD, the more common and milder form of AMD, accounts for 85% to 90% of all cases. It develops gradually over time and usually causes only mild loss of vision. One key identifier for AMD is the collection of small, round, white-yellow, fatty deposits called drusen in the central part of the retina. Drusen accumulate in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) tissue beneath the macula and the macula thins and dries out. The amount of vision loss is related to the location and amount of macular thinning caused by the drusen. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels form (wet AMD). It is therefore important for individuals with dry AMD to have their eyes examined regularly, because it may eventually develop into the wet form.
Although the wet form of AMD accounts for only 10 – 15% of all AMD, the chance for severe sight loss is much greater. It is responsible for 90% of severe vision loss associated with AMD. Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels, or choroidal nerve vascularization (CNV), under the central part of the retina, the macula. These abnormal vessels leak fluid and blood into the tissue at the back of the eye, causing a blister to form in the retina. This progression leads to scar tissue, distortion and a loss of central vision. Wet AMD can rapidly damage the macula and result in a very quick loss of central vision.
Lutein and its related compound Zeaxanthin are highly concentrated in the macula, providing a yellow color known as the macular pigment (MP). The macular pigment protects the macula from the damaging photo-oxidative effects of blue light. Of the 600 or so Carotenoids present in nature, only a handful is present in human serum. Of those, nature has chosen only Lutein and Zeaxanthin to be present in the macula. These facts alone suggest that Lutein plays a critical role in eye health.
There is a wealth of data available supporting a role for Lutein in reducing the risk of AMD. There are a number of observational studies showing the association between Lutein intakes, serum levels, macular pigment density (MPD).
Controlled intervention studies in humans are needed to establish causality. In terms of eye health, more and more studies investigating the direct effect of dietary Lutein and Lutein supplementation on macular pigment density are now being published.
Researchers agree that it is the body of evidence that must be evaluated collectively in order to determine the merits of a given nutrient, and any conclusions based on a single study are premature. The body of evidence appears to support a beneficial role for Lutein in eye health.
Lutein is a yellow pigment in the chemical family of Carotenoids and produced by vegetables, marigold flowers, alfalfa and to a lesser degree in many other plants. The original medical association of Lutein was as an isolate from the corpus luteum, a part of the ovaries, and hence its name (Latin for egg yolk), but an important medical aspect is its presence in the macula of the eye where it is strongly implicated in maintaining eye health. Humans do not synthesize Lutein and depend entirely on dietary sources such as vegetables or supplement Lutein pills.