Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Macular Degeneration
Lutein (luteus means”yellow” in Latin) is a xanthophylls and one of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids. Lutein is synthesized only by plants and like other xanthophylls is found in high quantities in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoid alcohols found in nature. Synthesized in plants and some micro-organisms, it is the pigment that gives paprika (made from bell peppers), corn, saffron, wolfberries, and many other plants and microbes their characteristic color. Carotenoids are oil-soluble plant pigments that the body can convert to vitamin A. They are responsible for the bright colors of produce. The best known carotenoid is beta-carotene. Beta carotene also has the most vitamin A activity of all of the carotenoids. Carotenoids also act as antioxidants, protecting the cells of your body. Much research has been done that shows that they enhance the immune system and protect against cancer. They also enhance communication between the cells, which may prevent the overgrowth of cells (and possibly inhibit cancer), according to research.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology (epublished ahead of print, July 24, 2012), looked at 108 subjects with early age-related macular degeneration. The subjects were randomly assigned to get either 10 mg of lutein, 10 mg of zeaxanthin, both 10 mg of lutein and 10 mg of zeaxanthin, or a placebo each day for 48 weeks. Function of the retina was improved in the group that received both lutein and zeaxanthin.