Lutein is an antioxidant commonly known as "vitamin for the eyes". Although it is most often used in the prevention of macular degeneration (AMD), it also has other important functions in the body.
What exactly is lutein?
Lutein is a yellow xanthophyll dye belonging to the group of carotenoids. It occurs naturally in nature and is a pigment produced by plants that gives color to vegetables and fruits.
Along with zeaxanthin, it is also located in large amounts in the retina of the eye and offers a number of benefits for the entire system.
Lutein is not synthesized naturally in the body, so it must be supplied to it from the outside - together with the daily diet or in the form of supplements.
It is well soluble in fats, so to increase its bioavailability, it is worth supplying the body with high-fat products.
As a result of the digestive processes taking place in the body, in the presence of bile acids, lutein is transported through the blood to the liver. Then, together with the blood, it is delivered to the tissues and organs depending on the demand.
Sources of lutein in food
Lutein is found mainly in plant foods, although significant amounts can also be found in hen's egg yolk. In addition, the sources of the dye include articles such as:
Properties and action of lutein
Lutein is an antioxidant. Thus, it protects proteins, fats and DNA against the harmful effects of free radicals. The substance also reduces oxidative stress. It also protects against harmful UVA and UVB rays.
The largest amounts of lutein accumulate in the retina around the macula, which is necessary for proper vision. It corresponds, i.a. to for visual acuity, for high-resolution vision, for adequate color perception and for central vision. Retinal photoreceptors are densely distributed in the macula. Lutein protects the eye against free radicals, and what's more, it can protect it against the harmful effects of light, especially blue light.
There is ample scientific data suggesting that lutein may reduce the risk of macular degeneration (AMD). Research is also underway on its impact on reducing the risk of cataract formation. In addition, lutein can also improve eyesight in people without accompanying ophthalmological diseases.
Carotenoid, due to its antioxidant properties, can also have a positive effect on the skin, ensuring its firmness, elasticity and proper hydration. In addition, it protects it against free radicals, delays the aging process and has anti-wrinkle properties. It also helps to produce a protective filter against UV radiation.
The substance also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which can positively affect the work of the heart and circulatory system.
Symptoms and effects of lutein deficiency
Lutein deficiency, common in society, can contribute to the appearance of undesirable symptoms such as:
- faster eye fatigue,
- deterioration of visual acuity,
- dry skin,
- reduced skin elasticity,
- increased risk of developing eye diseases, incl. macular degeneration.
Who should supplement lutein?
Lutein is commonly found in food products, therefore it is recommended to supplement the daily menu with green, red and orange vegetables and fruits, as well as chicken eggs, especially the yolk.
Despite the fact that lutein is present in popular foods, very often it is supplied to the body in too small amounts.
Data from the world's nutrition institutes indicate that the amount of lutein supplied with the diet to the body is 1.7 mg per day in Americans and 2.2 mg in Europeans, respectively. It's really not much, because the Society of Patients with Macular Degeneration recommends that you provide the body with a minimum of 6 mg of lutein every day.
Although preparations rich in lutein are becoming more and more popular among the elderly, they are not the only ones exposed to deficiencies of this ingredient.
Supplementation with this carotenoid should also be considered by young and healthy people, in particular those working in artificial light and spending long hours in front of a computer or TV screen. It is recommended to take preparations rich in lutein also among people who experience fatigue, tearing or burning eyes.
Daily requirement for lutein
The amount of lutein that the body needs often depends on the individual characteristics of the body, e.g. from the oxidative stress to which it is exposed.
Recommended daily dose of lutein ranges from 6 to even 20 mg per day.
Interestingly, to provide the system with 6 mg of lutein, you need to eat a whole plate of spinach or take advantage of the benefits of supplementation.
It is also worth remembering that the substance should always be taken in the company of high-fat products, which will increase its absorption and have a positive effect on the effects of supplementation.
The specific dose of the preparation should always be consulted with a doctor before taking it, so as not to lead to undesirable symptoms and effects.
Contraindications and side effects
No significant side effects have been observed from taking supplements containing lutein.
Only observed side effect that may occur when taking too large portions of the substance may be a slightly orange skin coloration called caroteneemia, i.e. excessive concentration of carotene in the blood.
There were also no contraindications to the use of lutein.
Despite numerous studies and confirmed safe action of the compound, it is important to follow the recommendations placed on the product packaging or on the leaflet of the preparation. Follow the suggested portions and do not exceed the recommended portions.