Due to the recent pandemic situation, people are spending more time at home using electronic devices, and there has been a trend of increased consumption of lutein among the population. However, many individuals may not experience significant improvements as they expect. It’s a common misconception that simply supplementing with lutein can address various eye-related issues comprehensively. In reality, a more holistic approach is necessary, involving a thorough assessment of one’s eye conditions before deciding on the appropriate course of action.
Lutein primarily targets the macular region of the eyes, and the effectiveness of its selection is closely related to individual experiences. It’s important to understand that lutein isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for eye problems. It’s essential to address specific eye concerns before determining the suitable approach for treatment or supplementation.
Lutein’s assistance to the macular region of the eyes
Lutein, along with its companion zeaxanthin, has been extensively studied for its role in preventing macular degeneration. The macula is the most sensitive area of the retina in the eye, and lutein has the ability to accumulate within this macular region. It acts as a protective barrier against the damaging effects of blue light.
As a result, retrospective clinical studies have demonstrated that supplementation with lutein can effectively increase the density of pigments in the macular region, providing assistance in cases of degenerative macular conditions. Moreover, higher doses of lutein have shown the potential to rapidly enhance pigment density in the macular region within a shorter period of time.
Lutein belongs to the carotenoid family, much like beta-carotene found in carrots, and possesses potent antioxidant properties. It has the capacity to capture free radicals and absorb harmful oxidative light within the retina. This proactive antioxidant action helps to mitigate the detrimental impact of light-induced oxidation on the eyes, thereby contributing to the maintenance of optimal visual health.
How do various types of lutein supplements differ?
There are numerous lutein supplements available on the market, but do they all provide the same effects? In reality, commercially available lutein supplements can generally be classified into three categories:
1. Free Form Lutein Extracted from Marigold
2. Esterified Lutein Extracted from Marigold
3. Synthetic Esterified Lutein
The first two categories are more common, with the third category being less frequently encountered. Esterified lutein cannot be directly absorbed and needs to be hydrolyzed by the digestive enzyme carboxyl ester lipase into its free form for effective absorption.
Furthermore, clinical studies have compared the blood concentrations of accumulated lutein after supplementation with both free form and esterified lutein. These studies found that participants who consumed free form lutein had a blood lutein concentration 17% higher than those who consumed esterified lutein.
Although there isn’t a definitive conclusion on which form is better absorbed in the scientific community, it’s suggested that individuals with weaker digestive systems or reduced absorption capabilities (such as the elderly) might not absorb esterified lutein as effectively. Hence, opting for supplements with free form lutein extracted from marigold could potentially yield better bioavailability.
Additionally, it’s advisable to choose lutein supplements in combination with other beneficial ingredients for enhanced absorption and overall eye health. Lutein is a fat-soluble compound, so selecting formulations that include beneficial fats like fish oil, flaxseed oil, or algae oil rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in lutein absorption and contribute to better eye health maintenance.
Precautions for Consuming Lutein Supplements
There is a theory that lutein and β-carotene belong to the same group of carotenoids and have similar absorption pathways in the intestines. This might lead to potential competition for absorption. However, regulatory authorities have indicated that the amounts of β-carotene and lutein typically found in modern diets are not sufficient to cause significant competition for absorption between the two.
Moderate intake of β-carotene from foods is unlikely to have a major impact on the absorption of lutein. If you need to take both β-carotene and lutein supplements, it’s recommended to space out their consumption according to your individual needs. This way, you can avoid any potential interference between the two compounds.
Common Misconceptions About Lutein Among the Public
There are several common misconceptions about lutein among the public:
1. Does Lutein Help with Any Eye Condition?
As mentioned earlier, lutein is helpful for degenerative conditions of the macula, such as age-related macular degeneration. However, for conditions like dry eye or night vision improvement, multiple nutrients are required, including bilberry, astaxanthin, fish oil, maqui berry, zinc, and more.
2. Is Lutein Effective Immediately?
Taking lutein sporadically will not yield significant results. Short-term supplementation might increase lutein levels in the blood, but accumulation in the macula requires consistent long-term supplementation. Clinical studies suggest continuous supplementation for at least 3 months for effective eye health maintenance. Therefore, consistent daily intake is more effective than occasional high-dose consumption.
3. Is a Higher Lutein Dosage Better?
Consistent and long-term usage is more crucial than the dosage itself. Rapidly increasing blood lutein levels through short-term high-dose consumption is not the primary goal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a daily intake of 6 milligrams of lutein to prevent macular degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2) found that a combination of 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin is helpful for age-related macular degeneration.
In summary, understanding these misconceptions is essential for making informed decisions about lutein supplementation and maintaining proper eye health.
How Experts Choose the Right Lutein for Themselves
For those unsure about how to choose the right lutein supplement, we suggest considering three aspects:
1. Consider Clinically Proven Brands, Dosages, and Formulas:
You can refer to clinically proven brands and dosages, as well as formulas targeting specific eye issues. One well-known clinical study is the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2), which suggests considering a major brand like FloraGLO that offers free-form lutein. The study used a combination of 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin and showed positive effects in preventing macular degeneration.
2. Opt for Functional Omega-3 Fatty Acids Combination:
Since lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient, selecting a supplement that includes functional Omega-3 fatty acids is a good choice. Softgel capsules are a suitable option for this combination.
3. Tailor to Personal Eye Conditions:
Consider your individual eye conditions, such as dry eyes, eye fatigue, poor night vision, or even eye pressure improvement. Choosing a supplement with additional ingredients addressing various aspects will provide comprehensive eye care and yield noticeable effects.
Ways to Improve Specific Eye Issues
1. Improving Dry Eyes:
Clinical studies suggest that supplementing with 30-60 milligrams of bilberry extract daily can increase tear secretion. Additionally, clinical literature shows that continuous supplementation of mulberry extract for 4 weeks can effectively improve dry eye conditions.
2. Relieving Eye Fatigue:
Opt for supplementation with astaxanthin. Clinical research indicates that supplementing with astaxanthin can improve microvascular blood flow, regulate ciliary muscle, and alleviate sensations of eye fatigue.
3. Enhancing Night Vision:
During World War II, British fighter pilots experienced improved night vision after consuming bilberry jam. Clinical trials with bilberry have also observed positive effects on night vision enhancement.
4. Slowing Cataract Progression:
Relevant antioxidant nutrients can help delay the clouding of the lens, such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, β-carotene, and lutein. Studies have shown that these nutrients can slow down lens degradation.
5. Managing Glaucoma:
In addition to medical treatment under the guidance of a physician, you can choose to supplement with mulberry extract. This may help slow down the progression of normal-tension glaucoma.