Lutein belongs to the xanthophylls, a subgroup of the carotene family. Carotenoids are a group of over 600 compounds known as the carotenoid pigments. These pigments give yellow, green or orange coloration to vegetables and fruits and are precursors for Vitamin A or retinol, an essential chromophore in all known visual systems. Lutein is naturally found in egg yolk and several plants including collard greens, Kale, leeks, peas, romaine lettuce and spinach.
Lutein is a yellow carotenoid pigment produced by plants and found in our eyes in the central area of the retina, called macula. The macula is a small, concentrated collection of photosensitive cells in the middle of the retina, directly behind the lens, that is responsible for central vision. In front of the photoreceptor is the neural retina. The neural retina is a network of various nerve and other cells that carry visual signals laterally to the optic nerve. A special antioxidant pigment accumulates within the neural retina directly over the central macular region. This antioxidant is observed as a yellow spot called the macula lutea. This yellow pigment is derived from the diet in foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, a non-vitamin Acarotenoid pigment that is a ~cousin~ to beta-carotene. While vitamin A, beta-carotene and lycopene are also members of the carotenoid family, researchers have found that lutein is the carotenoid found most abundantly in the eye. Recent evidence suggests lutein/zeaxanthin acts similarly to yellow 'blue-blocking' sunglass filters, protecting receptors from bleaching by sunlight and oxidative damage.
Dietary lutein is considered an essential micronutrient for normal vision. Lutein acts as a filter to protect the lightsensitive photoreceptor cells (cone cells) in macula from potentially damaging forms of light and light-originated free radical damages. Lutein protects the optic nerve and may help deter the development of age-related eye disorders such as macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. Macular degeneration is the breakdown of these light-sensing cells, eventually resulting in the loss of sight in the central part of the field of vision. This breakdown of light-sensing cells is due to a process called oxidation. The oxidants responsible for this are present in all of us, produced by normal metabolic processes. These oxidants are kept under control by antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of the macular cells. Unfortunately, as we grow older, this protective process becomes less effective. Studies show that people who eat more lutein-containing foods or take lutein rich supplements appear to be less likely to develop macular degeneration.
Cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment and a leading cause of blindness worldwide. They can only be treated by surgically replacing the lens and cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the U.S. Recently, the correlation between dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of cataracts have been studied. In fact, three recent epidemiological studies have reported a definite correlation between higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin and a reduced risk of cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the lens, but at much lower concentrations than in the macula.
The levels of these nutrients found in foods and in typical multivitamins are not sufficient to significantly impact the progression of eye-related disease making supplementation an easy way to obtain the necessary levels of these nutrients to optimize and support eye health.
Olympian Labs’ Lutein is a 100% pure, vegetarian formulation containing no animal bi-products and is available in easy-toswallow, kosher-certified capsules.