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Lutein is a yellowish pigment found in kale, spinach, and broccoli, and gives yellow colors to corn and egg yolk, and various fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It's been well established that lutein is very good for you eyes.
Lutein is one of the xanthophylls, which belong to carotenoid pigments consisting of more than 600 members. Lutein is a yellowish pigment found in kale, spinach, and broccoli, and gives yellow colors to corn and egg yolk, and various fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
History of Lutein
Carotenes and xanthophylls, the brilliant yellow pigments, were isolated in 1831 from carrot root by Heinrich Wilhelm Ferdinand Wackenroder (1789-1854), and from yellow autumn leaves in 1837 by Berzelius, respectively. In Greek, 'xantho' means yellow, and 'phylls' stands for leaves, which is comparable to 'chlorophylls' (green leaves). Many scientific studies ensued, and by 1902, there were over 800 publications in the field of carotene research. Xanthophylls were found in algae, and lutein, a component of xanthophylls was found in egg yolks.
Later researches confirmed that carotenes and xanthophylls are close related in molecular structure, and Harold Strain coined the word "carotenoids?to refer to the entire group of diverse, and yet closely related substances. Major known functions of these phytochemicals are photoreception and photo protection. Zeaxanthin and antheraxanthin, other members in the family, are also found to be involved in heat (energy) dissipation by converting themselves to violaxanthin, thus adding additional measures for the protection of photosynthesis systems.
In addition to being an integral part of photosynthesis systems as photoreceptors and protectors, carotenoids are strong anti-oxidants and protects plant tissues from damages caused by free radicals formed by UV-irradiation, etc. When we eat carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and pycopene through food, they protect our body against oxidative and free radical damages as well.
In addition to anti-oxidant actions, beta-carotene converts in our body to Vitamin A, which is an essential for our body functions including vision. Like beta-carotene, lutein is a carotenoid found commonly in diets. Studies indicate lutein is an essential nutrition for healthy eyes and vision.
More recently, lutein is found to accumulate specifically in the small area called macula in the retina of our eyes, raising the possibility that lutein also may protect our eyes and optic nerves, like they do for plant tissues from UV damages. As light enters the eye through the lens and passed focused to the back of the eye, an area known as retina (which is like a movie screen onto which images are projected) captures the light and converts the information to electrical impulses of optic nerves, which are sent to the brain. A small area at the center of the retina, called macula, is important for detailed vision. Macula contains pigments whose main constituents are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are both anti-oxidants and photo protectors.
Every 11 minutes, a person goes blind in the US. As we age, our eyes, thus our vision deteriorate inevitably. Unlike skin or other tissues, eye systems, especially optic nerves will not regenerate, and once they are damages, it won't recover and the damages are there to stay. Accumulation of the damages will result in the functional loss of the eye—blindness. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness among old people in the US, causing 300,000 complete blindness annually, and affecting the vision of 13 million people. It doesn't take a genius to see that we need to protect this important part of our eyes. Once the lutein pigment runs out and become thin in the protective pigment layer of macula, the eye and the optic nerves become vulnerable to damages by UV or any harmful irradiation, and free radicals.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
A growing amount of scientific evidence shows a clear association between a diet rich in lutein and a decreased risk of AMD, a disease that causes irreversible blindness. However, the latest consumer statistics show that most Americans don't consume the recommended daily amounts of vegetables, which are the primary sources of lutein, therefore, a dietary supplement or a vitamin containing lutein may be used as a complement to the diet. People also can expect some of their favorite foods and beverage products to be enriched with lutein, which is another great way to get lutein in your diet.
Recent studies also indicates that lutein is likely to prevent other diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma, and other body parts from lung cancer, breast cancer, and cardiovascular problems.
It's been well established that lutein is very good for your eyes. Specifically, lutein may:
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