A recent study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that taking 12 mg of lutein on a daily basis along with vitamin A slows down vision loss associated with retinitis pigmentosa.1
Rentinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited eye diseases that affect the retina. It causes the degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina, bringing progressive vision loss to about one in 4,000 people worldwide.
In the study, 225 nonsmoking patients, aged 18 to 60 were evaluated over a four-year period. All the patients received 12 mg of lutein or placebo daily, and all were given 15,000 IU vitamin A palmitate (synthetic vitamin A) with the hope that their mid-peripheral vision would be preserved.3
The results indicate that 40 year olds with the condition who take the vitamin A plus lutein combination would not be expected to lose their mid-peripheral field until the age of 61. This which would represent a significant improvement because the average age of losing mid-peripheral field vision for people not taking lutein plus vitamin A is 51.2
The researchers concluded that lutein supplementation of 12 mg per day slowed loss of mid-peripheral visual field on average among nonsmoking adults with retinitis pigmentosa taking vitamin A. But further studies are needed to assess long-term results.1
Lutein may prevent diabetic retinopathy
Another recent study found that lutein supplementation is able to reduce oxidative stress in the retina of the eye in diabetic mice, preventing visual impairment.3 Diabetic retinopathyis damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye, which occurs with long-term diabetes.It is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
The study that was done at the Laboratory of Retinal Cell Biology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan shows that lutein could be a potential therapeutic approach to protect visual function in diabetes. This is wonderful news for the more than 220 million of people worldwide who suffer from diabetes and the potential loss of vision.
What is lutein?
Lutein is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family—a group of naturally occurring, fat-soluble pigments found in plants—that play a key role in the health of our eyes. Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. All fruits and vegetables contain varying concentrations of carotenoids. But their colors are often covered up by green chlorophyll contained in the plant.
Lutein is found in spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, leeks, peas, egg yolks, tomatoes, carrots, marigold flowers, and fruits. It accumulates in the macula, the prominent, bright yellow spot in the center of the retina that allows you to clearly distinguish fine detail.
Less than 20 of the hundreds of carotenoids found in nature are found in the human body, and we need to consume them from foods or dietary supplements. Among the carotenoids present in the body, only lutein and zeaxanthin are found in that portion of the eye where light is focused by the lens, namely, the macula lutea. Numerous studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin may provide significant protection against the potential damage caused by light striking this portion of the retina. In the eye, lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to filter high-energy wavelengths of visible light and act as antioxidants to protect against the formation of free radicals.4
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Berson EL, Rosner B, Sandberg MA, Weigel-DiFranco C, Brockhurst RJ, Hayes KC, Johnson EJ, Anderson EJ, Johnson CA, Gaudio AR, Willett WC, Schaefer EJ.Clinical trial of lutein in patients with retinitis pigmentosa receiving vitamin A.Arch Ophthalmol.2010 Apr;128(4):403-11.
Daniells, Stephen. “Lutein plus vitamin A may slow vision loss: Study.” NutraIngredents.com
Sasaki M, Ozawa Y, Kurihara T, Kubota S, Yuki K, Noda K, Kobayashi S, Ishida S, Tsubota K. Neurodegenerative influence of oxidative stress in the retina of a murine model of diabetes. Diabetologia. 2010 May;53(5):971-9. Epub 2010 Feb 17.