Lutein anyone? As a type 1 diabetic I certainly know the importance of eye health and the importance of making sure you get those all important yearly eye exams. As diabetics we face a host of different complication buy none no greater than our eyes.
When I was first diagnosed, my endocrinologist mentioned the importance of eye health and that I may want to look into eye supplement and to make it appoint to stay on top of those yearly eye exams, especially if I started running into any issues. Honestly not know much or ever really hearing about it, I decided to check it out to see what it’s all about, so lets take a closer look!
What Is Lutein?
Lutein belongs to the carotenoid family, a group of vitamin A-related compounds that may be able to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and eye degeneration, reports the International Carotenoid Society. You can get this from certain foods (my first recommendation) as well as from dietary supplements found in the pharmacy.
Lutein is a pigment found in large amounts in brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, corn, tomatoes and spinach. Acting as an antioxidant, lutein helps counteract the damage caused by free radicals, keeping cells healthy and protecting against illness and disease.
The Role It Plays:
Lutein is present throughout the body, particularly in the eyes. It is found in the lens of the eye as well as in the retina, especially in the macula. It is considered an antioxidant, that protects the cells against the damage caused by naturally occurring chemicals such as free radicals, from the sun’s UV rays. Free radicals can impair the immune system, resulting in various infectious and degenerative diseases. Damage to the sensitive tissue of the macula, that is present in the center of the retina, that can lead to loss of vision, is known as macular degeneration. Free radical damage is one of the main causes of this condition and lutein proves to be effective against it. Here is a fantastic study, done by the NIH NIH study
Lutein acts as a natural eye shade, and protects the retina from being directly exposed to the harmful light coming from the sun. It increases the density of the macular pigment, that is, the layer of protective tissue that is present over the macula. This pigment strengthens the eye’s vital structures and reinforces its protective capability.
Not only that, it helps in filtering the harmful blue light and the UV light and thus protects against macular degeneration caused by free radicals. Lutein is also important for protection against cataracts, which commonly occurs with age. The condition is characterized by clouding of the natural lens, causing blurred or decreased vision. Lutein helps to strengthen the cells of the lens, and improve vision.
Eye floaters are bits of debris, within the vitreous humor, which is the clear and transparent material that fills the eyeball. Eye floaters can be accompanied by flashes of light and restriction in the visual field. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant, and along with zeaxanthin (another carotenoid) serves as a great way to fight against eye floaters.
So how much should you take? Well that is definitely something that you will want to discuss with your Endocrinologist, and more importantly, your eye doctor.
Lutein is plentiful in various foods, that we will discuss below or you may want to discuss taking capsules supplements with your doctor. I prefer to go the food route, so lets take a look at our various options!
Foods High In Lutein:
Leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and collard greens have a high content, containing anywhere from 15 to 47 percent of lutein, according to a 1998 study carried out by researchers in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at University of Texas Medical Branch. Corn has the highest content, at 60 percent. Other vegetables containing a significant amount of lutein include zucchini, squash and orange pepper. Certain fruits like kiwi and grapes also contain high amounts.
Lutein-enriched eggs have about 2 mg per extra large egg. While the quantity of lutein is a lot smaller than most lutein-containing vegetables, a study published in the August 2004 issue of “The Journal of Nutrition” found that a greater percentage of lutein is absorbed from eggs than from vegetables. You can find these enriched eggs in health food stores and farmer’s markets.
Other Sources Of Lutein:
All varieties of cooked summer and winter squash, peas, yellow corn, beet greens, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romaine and iceberg lettuce, asparagus and carrots are good food sources as well as zeaxanthin and contain between 1 to 4 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin per serving. Carrot juice and vegetables such as leeks, snap beans, canned mixed vegetables, artichokes, okra, sauerkraut and sweet green pepper, by contrast, only provide 0.5 to 1 milligram of lutein and zeaxanthin per serving, so these are all options that provide fantastic sources not to mention other great health benefits.
As for supplements, if you just can’t get enough from what you are eating, another great way to incorporate lutein is in the form of supplements. Supplements usually come in soft-gel form. The recommended dose is between 10 mg and 20 mg daily, but again, this is something that needs to be discussed with your doctor. Some multi-vitamins have started adding lutein to their formula. Concentrated supplements are considered safe for the most part, so make it appoint to talk to your doctor about all of the associated side effects with taking any sort of supplement.
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