WHAT IS LUTEIN?
Lutein is a carotenoid and phytonutrient (health boosting, plant based chemical compounds which are not classed as essential nutrients) that can be sourced from green leafy vegetables. In this article I will be providing a detailed breakdown of lutein and discussing its role in the human body.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF LUTEIN?
Lutein was discovered around 1930 and it was identified in the macula lutea (an oval shaped, highly pigmented yellow spot close to the centre of the retina of the human eye) in 1945.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF LUTEIN?
Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from free radicals (harmful by-products that are released into your body’s cells during oxygen based reactions).
Like zeaxanthin, provisional studies suggest that lutein may be able to boost the eyes. It may also have further health benefits. However, additional research is needed before these potential benefits can be confirmed. The list below outlines these possible health benefits of lutein:
– Possibly boosting the eyes by preventing cataracts (clouding on the lenses of the eyes), macular degeneration and photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light).
– Possibly boosting the health of pregnant and lactating women.
– Possibly preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in your artery walls and restrict the flow of blood).
– Possibly preventing various types of cancer (including breast cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer).
– Possibly preventing heart disease (by preventing atherosclerosis).
– Possibly protecting the skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) damage.
HOW MUCH LUTEIN DO YOU NEED?
Lutein is not classed as an essential nutrient so no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been established. However, a number of sources recommend consuming between 6 milligrams (mg) and 10mg of this phytonutrient each day for optimal health.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN LUTEIN?
Lutein is mainly found in green leafy vegetables. However, it can also be sourced other fruits, herbs, vegetables, spices and egg yolks. The table below lists 10 of the top food sources of lutein:
|MG OF LUTEIN PER 100 GRAMS (G)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CONSUMING TOO MUCH LUTEIN?
Consuming natural lutein is safe and has no reported overdose symptoms. However, consuming high levels of lutein supplements can lead to a condition called carotenemia which causes your skin to become temporarily orange. The good news is that carotenemia is harmless and can be treated by simply reducing your intake of lutein. In addition to this, 1 study has suggested that consuming high levels of lutein supplements may increase your lung cancer risk but experts have questioned the validity of this study and the methods used.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF FAILING TO CONSUME ENOUGH LUTEIN?
Lutein is not classed as an essential nutrient so no deficiency symptoms have been established. It has been suggested that long term lutein deficiency can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer. It may also increase your risk of macular degeneration. However, there is no solid evidence available to back these claims.
Although the research on lutein is still in the early stages, it is a very promising nutrient and should definitely be included in your diet. So make sure you are getting your greens. They will supply you with plenty of lutein plus many other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Carotenoids in Photosynthesis: An Historical Perspective (University of Illinois)
Lutein Rich Foods (Endmemo)
List of Phytochemicals in Food (Wikipedia)
Zeaxanthin And Lutein – The Macular Pigments And A Review Of Their Role In Eye Health (Douglas Labs)