Lutein is a carotenoid vitamin, similar to vitamin A and beta-carotene. It is most often found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach but is also prevalent in kiwi, squash, grapes, broccoli, corn and many more fruits and vegetables as well as egg yolks and animal fat. It is sometimes called the "eye vitamin" and actually functions as a color pigment in the human eye. Here are 5 health benefits of lutein:
Lutein protects the eyes from sun damage and oxidative stress. It may be essential in preventing eye diseases like cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
A major human study of atherosclerosis showed that lutein and other carotenoids may help prevent heat attack and stroke. Lutein can help prevent oxidative stress to cholesterol and the cardiovascular system and prevent clogged arteries and carotid artery thickness. Lab tests and animal research also concluded that dietary lutein may help prevent atherosclerosis.
Lutein is classified as a dietary antioxidant. Antioxidants help combat free radical damage to the cells and can help prevent oxidative stress and chronic inflammation to the heart and other body systems.
Lutein appears to be a possible treatment for several diabetic conditions including retinopathy and encephalopathy. Preliminary studies of animals showed promise as to lutein's role as an antioxidant in diabetic treatment for these conditions. It may help balance blood sugar and glutathione levels and may even improve the effects of insulin.
Cancer studies involving lutein have produced mixed results. While some reports associate lutein with a reduced risk of cervical, prostate and colon cancers, others indicate no benefit for lung and other cancers. It appears that the antioxidant properties of lutein may be useful in lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, however more research is needed to prove the connection between lutein and cancer prevention.