Lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid that's abundant in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. Lutein is highly concentrated in the eye's macula, and smaller amounts are found in the retina, lens, and optic nerve. Lutein helps protect the retina from the effects of aging and ultraviolet light exposure, helping to prevent macular degeneration.
Lutein is a key player in eye health, but its benefits go beyond healthy vision. Here are five reasons you need this powerful carotenoid.
1. Research shows that lutein can lower the risk of cataracts. One study found that older women who had the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, another eye-protective carotenoid, were about a third less likely to develop cataracts.
2. Lutein benefits brain health. Studies find that lutein is the dominant carotenoid in the brain, where it affects visual processing and other neural activities. Boosting lutein levels with a supplement is associated with improvements in memory in people with mild cognitive impairment.
3. Lutein supports overall brain efficiency as we age. In a study of older women who took lutein every day, lutein was found to improve verbal recall scores and enhance visual processing speed, which tends to slow as we age.
4. The heart may also benefit from lutein. New evidence finds that lutein may protect against clogging of the carotid arteries in the neck, an indication of atherosclerosis, which leads to most heart attacks.
5. Lutein may have a favorable affect metabolic diseases as well. A review of more than 4,000 studies found that participants with the highest blood levels of lutein had a 25 percent reduced risk of having metabolic syndrome, the cluster of conditions including abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting glucose, and high cholesterol and triglycerides.
The body can't produce lutein, and levels tend to decline with age. Enjoy a diet rich in dark, leafy greens and look for a lutein supplement at your natural market.
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