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Lutein® (Latin luteus, "yellow") is a carotenoid, a naturally occurring pigment found in the photosynthetic energy cells (chloroplasts) of plants and, in the animals that eat these plants.
Its name is derived from the vegetable “carrot” to which it gives its typical orange color. Even the pink color of flamingos and salmon as well as the red in lobsters is due to carotenoids. Lutein is found dominant in some yellow flowers (i.e. dandelions) and carrots, leafy green vegetables (i.e. spinach, turnips, collard greens) and is partially responsible for the coloring seen in egg yolks. The lighter the yolk color, the less Lutein it contains. We often do not recognize Lutein because it is masked by the “green” in plants but with the changing of the seasons, the yellow that are seen in autumn leaves is in fact Lutein.
Lutein is yellow because it absorbs blue light as well as solar radiation, protecting the plant’s photosensitive mechanisms.
This is extremely important for humans (as well as other animals) because it is found concentrated in the macula and retina, the layer of cells that lines the inner eye. It therefore protects the eye much as it protects the plant from harmful light and radiation. It also acts as an anti-oxidant, a scavenger or “garbage man” for loose reactive oxygen molecules that act in the same manner as oxidation which causes metals to rust.
There has been a plethora of peer-reviewed and published human clinical studies over the past decade, and beyond, which clearly show that Lutein is of significant beneficial to the eyes.
It helps prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well as increase visual acuity and function (myopia, presbyopia), contrast sensitivity and night vision. It has been associated with a reduced risk for glaucoma and cataracts and even retinopathy – retinal damage seen in premature babies.
Additionally, perhaps due in part to its anti-oxidant activity, Lutein is associated with a reduced rate of arthrosclerosis or the interrupted pliability of the arteries, and thus a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
As our bodies depend on a healthy system for blood flow, it has been shown to increase lung function (young adults), improve hypertension (high blood pressure), glucose metabolism and type-2 diabetes, decrease and protect skin aging and disease as well as preserve and increase cognitive function, particularly in women. While there are no definitive studies to date, it is only intuitive that with increased blood flow, it would also affect sexual parameters in men.
Although the mechanism of action is not well understood, it has been clinically shown to decrease oxidative DNA damage and the risk of chronic diseases such as bladder, colorectal, uterine (and human papillomavirus) and breast cancer.
It is not a cure – just an association – as other mechanisms are also responsible for these diseases. Abundantly found in nature, Lutein is critical for a variety of aspects associated with health in human beings. Due to varied diets, it is often not ingested in the physiologically effective amounts required. Supplementation with Lutein has been highly suggested by the medical community for over a decade and clinical evidence clearly supports its use.
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