Lutein is necessary for the health of the eyes. This article provides information regarding the uses and side effects of the same.
Lutein is a chemical compound belonging to the class xanthophylls. It is nothing but a beta-carotene related carotenoid, which is naturally present in plants. The carotenoids or the yellow and orange pigments, give vegetables their orange color.
Lutein is beneficial for the retina, especially the macula and lens of the eyes. The macula is the center of the retina, which is responsible for central vision or straight ahead vision. The tissue layer which protects the macula from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light and blue light (harmful component of sunlight), contains two carotenoids, namely lutein and zeaxanthin. Free radicals are responsible for the development of cataracts and macular degeneration symptoms. Lutein, is a type of an antioxidant, which protects the eyes from the ill-effects of free radicals.
With the regular consumption of this carotenoid, one can increase the density of the macular pigment and protect the eyes. It provides natural sunglasses to reduce the light induced oxidative retinal damage. The age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the main cause of blindness in the elderly. Lutein proves to be effective against it, as it strengthens the eye’s vital structures and reinforces its protective capability. Thus, it helps improve the vision.
Dosage For Macular Degeneration
Low macular pigment concentrations may be associated with higher risk of macular degeneration. The intake of this carotenoid can be increased through diet and supplements. The dietary supplements can raise the macular pigment density, and serum concentrations of the carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) in the body, to considerable levels. Their antioxidant properties can help prevent cataracts. As our body cannot produce lutein on its own, it needs to be supplied from the outside. The consumption of foods such as spinach, eggs, squash, cantaloupes, oranges, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, zucchini, collard greens, carrots, etc., may reduce the risk of ARMD. This carotenoid is best absorbed with foods high in fats.
Read the labels on macular degeneration nutritional supplements carefully, to see how much lutein is included in each dose. Some products list it in milligrams (mg) while some in micrograms (mcg). One-thousandth of a milligram is equal to one microgram.
- The typical American consumes about 1 – 2 milligrams per day.
- The USDA dietary guideline for the intake is 4 – 8 milligrams per day.
- Experts recommend 6 – 10 milligrams per day, for beneficial effects.
Although studies have established that the dosage up to 10 mg can be safely administered, a long-term large clinical trial is necessary to investigate the safety and efficacy of this carotenoid, in reducing the risk of the development of advanced macular degeneration. Some trials and research studies are still going on. Most lutein supplements contain zeaxanthin; as these two carotenoids are found in the macular pigment. These two are usually present together in food sources as well.
The supplements are considered to be safe. The possible minor side effects can be headaches and difficulty in swallowing the tablets. Researchers are checking the side effects in breast feeding moms and babies, since most baby formulas do not contain lutein and zeaxanthin, however, the breast milk does.
It is always better to take this carotenoid in its natural form, as the assimilation process is more controlled in this form. This will automatically reduce the chances of any health risks. If you wish to take lutein in the form of a supplement, it might create health problems. Some studies show that the supplement might interfere in the process of absorption of beta-carotene. If you have been diagnosed with lutein deficiency, then you may take the supplements after consulting with your doctor. Always follow the instructions of your doctor regarding the dosage. Consult your doctor for the reliable brand and duration of the supplement as well.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.