Lutein, a yellow colored pigment, is one of over 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids. It is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Another source of lutein is egg yolks. The body is born with lutein but does not reproduce it. Hence, vision supplements have been formulated to provide enough amount of lutein the body needs.
Lutein Benefits in Eye Health
Among the Lutein benefits, eye health is its primary intention. The macula, a portion of the eye in charge of central vision needs lutein. Lutein protects the eyes from the harmful blue and ultraviolet lights, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration. Studies show that incorporating lutein in our diets can help protect the eyes from common eyes diseases like cataracts.
As a natural antioxidant, Lutein has also other benefits in human health.
Lutein and Cardiovascular Health
Lutein Benefits include the prevention of cardiovascular disease, stroke and lung cancer. Research has found that lutein along with its fellow carotenoid, zeaxanthin, can inhibit thickening of the walls of carotid arteries and LDL-induced (low-density lipoprotein) migration of monocytes to human artery cell walls. These potential mechanisms along with lutein’s antioxidant property could enable lutein present in plasma to protect against atherosclerosis, a major contributor to coronary heart disease.
Lutein Benefits in Skin
Lutein has also been found to play a role in the health of the skin. Professor Pierfrancesco Morganti, professor of applied cosmetic dermatology at the University of Naples, Italy, explained that either oral or topical lutein improves skin dehydration, elasticity and lipid content. Studies have shown that a daily lutein supplement may increase the skin’s natural antioxidant system and help protect against damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Lutein Benefits in Cancer Prevention
Lutein has been discovered to reduce the risk of certain cancers including skin cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.
The most dangerous type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. Too much exposure to the sun and having a fair complexion that burns easily are the risk factors in this type of cancer. Studies investigating melanoma reported that high intake of lutein from fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of melanoma.1
A long term study of 83,234 healthy women evaluated the relationship between breast cancer and carotenoid intakes. The study found that lutein and zeaxanthin consumption from food and supplements may reduce the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.2 Researchers in South Korea examined serum levels of several antioxidants including lutein in 169 breast cancer cases and 229 control subjects. The highest statistical value of serum lutein was associated with an 88% decrease in breast cancer risk relative to the lowest quintile in both pre- and post-menopausal women.3
Carotenoids have biological characteristics that may support a role for them as chemopreventive agents. However, little is known about how dietary carotenoids are linked with colon cancer. A Korean study have found that carotenoids extracted from Asian algae forms – Chlorella ellipsoidea (CEE) and Chlorella vulgairs (CVE) blocked growth of human colon cancer cells.4 They also found that extracts had a more powerful anti-cancer effect when used in combination than in isolation.
Foods Containing Lutein
The most important sources of lutein are fruits and vegetables. Among fruits and vegetables, corn was found to have the greatest quantity of lutein.4 Egg yolks also provide a good amount of lutein. According to a study funded by the Agricultural Research Service and the Egg Nutrition Center in Washington, DC, egg yolks are a better source of highly bioavailable lutein than any other dietary sources of carotenoid.
In conclusion, a lot of scientific research demonstrates the benefits of including lutein in our diets either from consuming vegetables and fruits or by taking lutein supplements. In summary, lutein acts as an antioxidant and has the power to protect eyes and vision. It can also protect against certain types of cancer, including skin cancer and breast cancer. Furthermore, lutein can help prevent atherosclerosis and support cardiovascular health.