Lutein: what it is and what it is for

What we call Lutein it is a substance of natural origin, it is contained in numerous foods that are part of our diet and it is important for our health because it has antioxidant and protective properties on sight.

Lutein: what it is

From a chemical point of view, it is part of the group of xanthophylls which are natural fat-soluble pigments contained in many foods of both animal and vegetable origin. For example, we find it in egg yolk as well as in vegetables such as spinach, corn, Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, humans are unable to synthesize lutein, so it is necessary for them to obtain it by eating in a correct and balanced way. We are in good company because there are many animals that are in the same conditions.

Lutein: what is it for

When we manage to take it at the table, the Lutein it is concentrated in the central area of ​​the retina of the eye which is called the macula. This is precisely where this substance is able to absorb the natural blue light, protecting the retina from harmful UV rays.

From numerous studies it has indeed emerged that lutein is very effective when it comes to preventing age-related macular degeneration, a disease linked to a condition of excessive exposure to glaring sunlight. Among the factors that favor age-related macular degeneration there are also cigarette smoking and nutritional imbalances but also some genetic elements matter.

This not very well known disease is in fact the main cause of progressive and irreversible loss of vision, involves retinal degeneration and affects people over the age of 65, usually residing in industrialized countries.

There are other health problems that are linked to poor amount of lutein, for example cataracts, a disease due to the clouding of the lens of the eye.

In addition to ophthalmology, against the cataract and age-related macular degeneration, we can find lutein also used in anti-aging treatments due to its antioxidant properties.

Lutein: nutrition

Let's see which foods contain the most. The quantities reported in parentheses refer to the mg contained in each hectogram of food indicated. Spinach is the food that contains the most (12,2) and then there are cut chicory (10.3) and red chicory (8.83). Following in the list of recommended foods we find parsley (5.56), rocket (3.55), peas (2.48), lettuce (2.31), broccoli (1.40), corn, yellow (1.35) and egg yolk (1.1).

For man, the daily requirement of lutein it is estimated at 4-6 mg (50g of spinach per day is enough to satisfy it).
All xanthophylls can also be indicated on the label with the code E161b. In the food sector we can find them used as natural dyes while in the livestock industry they are useful for accentuating the color of chicken egg yolk, for example. , where they are added to feed intended for feeding hens to accentuate the color of the egg yolk.

Lutein: method of use

Today we find the lutein present in supplements in highly variable doses, between 250 mcg and 50 mg, it is necessary to comply with the instructions on the packaging or reported by the doctor. In general, it is very important to take lutein close to meals because it is a lipophilic substance, so it is essential that our stomach is full for the intestinal absorption process to be effective.

Often in supplements to the lutein we also find other antioxidants that are specially added to enhance its effect. In products for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, for example, we also find vitamin E, vitamin C, lycopene, selenium and coenzyme Q10, all of which are very important for our health. Always in the same formulation, we find minerals such as copper and zinc in the first place. Among the recommended foods, for lutein and more, we find green tea, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, green salad, corn etc.

Lutein: side effects

Usually with lutein there are no big problems, we can use the products that contain it safely. The side effects indicated are very rare and clinically insignificant. In general, its use is not recommended only in case of hypersensitivity to the active ingredient, but there are also drugs that may not "get along" with this substance.

The intestinal absorption of lutein it could be compromised by the simultaneous intake of active ingredients and foods such as cholestyramine, colestipol, mineral oils, orlistat, beta-carotene and pectin. L'intestinal absorption it is instead increased by medium-chain triglycerides or by some vegetable oils, such as corn.

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Video: Lutein and Zeaxanthin: the autobiography Professor George Britton, University of Liverpool (May 2021).