Nutrition is the best way to prevent or delay the progression of any disease. Carotenoids that are lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh-zan-thin), are antioxidants that are located in the Lens and macula of both eyes.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin in Macular Degeneration
Many studies has shown that lutein and zeaxanthin help to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases like Cataracts, and Age related Macular Degeneration. Recent studies have shown, another anti-oxidant called meso-zeaxanthin as a vital component of the macula and is not found in food. The retina thus transforms the ingested lutein to make this anti-oxidant. Along with keeping the eyes healthy, lutein protects against deposition of fatty molecules in arteries that cause heart diseases.
How do they work?
Lutein and Zeaxanthin function by absorbing the harmful sunlight i.e. Ultraviolet rays of light. They absorb wavelengths ranging from 400-500 nanometers (Violet to Green). This causes them to appear yellow in color.
Meaning of Macula Lutea: Macula of the eye also called “Macula lutea” in latin, where “macula” means to spot and “lutea” means yellow.
What research and studies show?
Amount of lutein and zeaxanthin present in the macular area is measured in terms of Macular Pigment Optical density (MPOD) which is the biomarker for prediction of retinal vision problems. Thus, higher the MPOD, lesser is the chances of AMD says “Research published in Nutrition & Metabolism” and “Two studies published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science”
The lens needs to be clear to focus light on the retina. Any opacity in a lens is caused by oxidation. To prevent it, a diet rich in these two nutrients are necessary. They neutralize the free radicals in the lens, preventing the oxidation and thus preventing cataracts.
In a study published in the Journal Optometry, participants with early AMD who consumed 8 mg per day of dietary zeaxanthin for one year improved their night driving and their visual acuity improved an average of 1.5 lines on an eye chart. Many other studies claim lutein and zeaxanthin improves the visual performance in AMD patient.
How much should you eat?
Egg is a wonderful source of Lutein
As these two important eye nutrients is not formed by our body, we need to eat them in regular basis. Recommended daily dose for optimal for healthy eyes is 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin per day but higher dose is not yet set. There is no toxic side effects of these unlike carotenes, over dose which could cause carotenemia (Harmless yellowing of the skin). The condition could be confused with jaundice though.
The Lutein supplement available in the market is mostly prepared from Marigold flower but eating raw Marigold is probably not a good idea. Zeaxanthin supplement is prepared from Red Peppers.
The major sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are Kale, Spinach, collards, Mustard Greens, Green peas, Sweet corn, broccoli, Egg, Orange, Sun dried Peppers etc.
Kale is the powerful source of lutein
lutein and zeaxanthin supplement
There are so many supplement found these days on amazon, walmart etc. You have to read the lutein and zeaxanthin supplements review before making purchase of it.
Some of commercially available supplements are as follows
- Puritan’s Pride Lutein 40mg with Zeaxanthin
- Carlyle Visi-Gold
- Trunature Vision Softgels Complex
- MacuHealth Triple Caretenoid Formula
- Ocuvite Eye Vitamin & Mineral Supplement
The Food serving per cup (236.588mg us standard) is as follows.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin (mg)
- Kale (cooked): 23.8
- Spinach (cooked): 20.8
- Collards(cooked): 14.6
- Spinach(Raw): 3.8
- Corn: 2.2
- Green peas(Raw): 2.2
- Broccoli: 1.6
- Green peas: 0.8
- Eggs: 0.15
- Orange(Medium): 0.2
Reference – USDA Nutrient Database(2009)
There were not serious side effects of lutein and zeaxanthin reported. Few side effects such as skin yellowing is reported which is not considered harmful and its a mild side effects.