Why Lutein Is the Optimal Ingredient for Eye Health

Lutein is a carotenoid related to vitamin A and beta-carotene and is found naturally in many vegetables and easily found as a supplement. As an important nutrient for eye health, it helps to prevent degenerative diseases or slows their progress.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 17, 2020

Why Lutein Is the Optimal Ingredient for Eye Health

Lutein is a carotenoid and is related to vitamin A and beta-carotene. Both of these nutrients are known to protect eye health, and lutein functions in the same way. It’s also known as the pigment that gives vegetables their color. 

When consumed, lutein is transported directly to the eye, where it serves as a protective agent. Lutein is an antioxidant, so it provides a wide range of health benefits. Along with vitamin A and beta-carotene, it plays a significant role in protecting your vision. 

Lutein can naturally be found in several foods or as a supplement. The top food sources for lutein include spinach, eggs, squash, and carrots. You can also find lutein in nuts and healthy oils, such as avocado or olive oils. 

Most people do not get enough lutein from their diet, which makes supplements necessary. Through food or supplements, lutein can boost eye health and prevent vision loss. 

Lutein for Eye Health

Eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration are the leading causes of acquired blindness. Millions of Americans are affected by vision loss each year. 

While some vision deterioration is related to age, there are things you can do to protect your eyes. Lutein is a powerful carotenoid that protects the eye from damage. In this way, lutein can boost eye health and prevent or delay serious vision problems. 

Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy areas that develop in the lens affecting visual clarity. These gradually develop over the course of a few years and are more common with age. 

Because the eye is constantly exposed to oxidative damage, the development of cataracts is a potential risk for everyone. Lutein can prevent their development or slow the growth of cataracts as a result of its antioxidant properties. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a disease that occurs with age and causes vision loss. There is no cure for this condition, but treatment can slow its progression. Studies show that lutein protects against macular degeneration. When taken daily, the risk of disease progression is significantly reduced. 

Taking lutein can prevent macular degeneration from developing into full vision loss. It also delivers powerful healing properties to the damaged eye. 

Blue Light Damage

Most people spend a large portion of the day in front of a screen or in artificial lighting. The light emitted is blue, and it is especially damaging for eyes. 

Blue light penetrates directly through to the retina, causing damage to the sensitive tissues. It is the equivalent of sunburn for your eyes. Too much exposure to blue light increases the risk of serious eye conditions like macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. 

Preventative measures are needed to avoid degeneration, and taking lutein is a safe option. Lutein strengthens eye tissues that protect the eyes, especially the retina, from damage. 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of conditions that damage the optic nerve. The health of the optic nerve is essential for good vision. 

Damage is typically caused by a build-up of pressure in the eye when the fluid (aqueous humor) is blocked from draining. Increased pressure on the optic nerve causes damage and interferes with vision. 

The oxidative effects of lutein provide protection to the eye, which serves as a viable solution in treating glaucoma. Lutein cannot reduce the pressure in the eye, but it protects the optic nerve to slow the progression of glaucoma.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition characterized by inadequate moisture in the eyes. This condition is common among older adults, especially post-menopausal women. The dryness triggers inflammation causing the eyes to become red, painful, and sensitive to light. 

The common treatment is prescription eye drops, but lutein can also help. Lutein acts as a natural sunblock to protect your eyes from harsh UV lights that can cause dry eyes. The anti-inflammatory effects of lutein also reduce inflammation in the eyes, protecting them from further damage. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Studies show that high levels of carotenoids like lutein in the blood are linked to better diabetes management. Lutein helps control blood glucose levels and reduces the risk of diabetes-related complications. 

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision in those with diabetes. Lutein helps protect the eyes and control blood glucose to prevent this complication from developing. 

Additional Benefits of Lutein

Lutein is mostly known for the benefits it brings to your eyes. The antioxidant properties of lutein allow it to also provide protection to other parts of the body. 

Skin health: Your skin, like your eyes, is exposed to the environment all day, which increases oxidative damage. The damage prematurely ages the skin and triggers inflammation. Lutein inhibits the activity of the free radicals that cause oxidative damage. This antioxidant also reduces inflammation, which benefits the health of your skin. When taken daily, lutein improves skin tone, reduces UV damage, and prevents premature aging and wrinkles. 

Heart health: The antioxidant properties of lutein reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Inflammation and oxidative damage to tissues are underlying causes of heart disease. By reducing these dangerous processes, lutein protects your heart. High levels of lutein in the body have also been linked to reduced plaque build-up in the arteries. A reduction in arterial plaques reduces the risk of stroke. 

Taking Lutein

Most diets are low in lutein, so a supplement may be necessary to boost eye health. Lutein is considered safe when taken orally. 

It is recommended to take between 6 and 20 milligrams each day. This daily amount has been shown to reduce the risk of eye conditions. Your doctor will advise the best amount for you after discussing your health. 

The amount of lutein taken will depend on the damage done to your eyes and the daily stress they are under. Smokers will have to take higher doses, as smoking increases oxidative stress to the eyes. Do not start taking any supplements without checking with your doctor first. There are no known interactions between lutein and other medications or supplements. 

Some skin yellowing has been reported as a side effect in some individuals. This is not considered harmful. In older women, the development of crystals in the eye can also occur. These crystals are more likely to form with doses of over 20 milligrams. Studies continue to research any potential side effects with very high doses of lutein. 

The Bottom Line

Lutein is a powerful carotenoid. It is found naturally in many vegetables and easily found as a supplement. Not getting enough lutein from your diet can increase your risk of eye conditions. 

A lutein supplement is safe when taken in recommended doses and will protect your eyes. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can cause blindness. Protect your eyes naturally with lutein, and preserve vision as you age.

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