Myth Buster: Lutein Only Benefits Your Eyes

June 25, 2019

Written by Sara Uffelman

Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team

Myth Buster: Lutein Only Benefits Your Eyes 

The carotenoid Lutein, commonly referred to as the "eye vitamin", is making its scene beyond eye health. While it is widely known that Lutein is proven to benefit your eye health, reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, and prolong the onset of cataracts, researchers believe they have only just scratched the surface of Lutein's health-promoting benefits. Nearly 100 peer-reviewed published papers involving 400,000 individuals confirmed that higher Lutein consumption can reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome. Even more recently, Lutein has increasingly been linked to cognitive benefits such as long-term brain health, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). At first this may sound curious, but given how tightly connected the eyes and brain are it actually makes perfect sense. In fact, Lutein has now been found to not only exist in the retina of the eye, but in the actual brain as well.  Only 3 carotenoids exist in the brain: Lutein (L), Zeaxanthin (Z), and Meso-Zeaxanthin (MZ).  When these three carotenoids are combined, their antioxidant effects become even more powerful and their benefits become even greater. Science has proven that the result of supplementing with only 1-2 carotenoids versus all 3 will never be optimal. Because of this, when shopping for a Lutein supplement, make sure your supplement also contains the other 2 carotenoids Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin. 

What is Lutein?

Lutein is a powerful plant-based pigment known as a carotenoid (a fancy word for nutrient) that can be found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, and peppers. Even though Lutein is a small pigment, it has large antioxidant benefits. It neutralizes dangerous free radicals, reduces oxidative stress, and lowers inflammation in both the eyes and the brain.  Due to it's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, Lutein has now been linked to improvements in brain health, cognitive function, memory and even mood.  Studies have shown the three carotenoids — Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Meso-Zeaxanthin — to have memory-enhancing effects when taken daily, as well as an impact on cognitive function.  Further studies show that individuals with high concentrations of carotenoids in their brain demonstrate much better cognitive functions, and that patients with Alzheimer's disease are actually deficient in these nutrients.

UPDATE:  Recent clinical research has confirmed that cognitive performance can be improved in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment following supplementation with a combination of all 3 carotenoids (L, Z, and MZ) and Omega-3s DHA and EPA; This supplement is commercially known as the Memory Health®.

UPDATE:  The Memory Health® supplement was awarded a patent for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease, specifically dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

Adding Lutein To Your Every Day Diet

Lutein is a plant-based pigment responsible for the yellow colors of fruits and vegetables, and is present in the highest quantities in dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli.  We are all born with a certain amount of Lutein in our eyes and brain, but here's the kicker: Our bodies don't reproduce Lutein and it is up to us to acquire more of it through our diets. This is particularly difficult in 2020 when our food sources are over-farmed, over-manufactured, and declining every year in nutritional value.  According to USDA data, 1 Bowl of Spinach in 1953 has the same nutritional value as over 43 Bowls of Spinach today. That's an 84% loss of nutrition!  What this means is that even with a healthy diet we don't receive Lutein and the other carotenoids Z and MZ in the quantities our eyes and brains need.  Consuming carotenoids through your diet is one way to obtain them, but you may also try fortifying your diet with supplements.  In fact, scientists now believe that supplements are necessary in order to maintain optimal carotenoid levels in the eyes and brain. 

Interested In Learning More About The Three Carotenoids: Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin?

Lutein For Kids

Your health is a major priority at any stage of your life. Whether you are 10-years-old or 80-years-old, we want to be healthy at every age. In order to achieve a lifetime of good health, one must start early.  Believe it or not, various recent studies have found that Lutein is the dominant existing carotenoid in the brains of infants. This may be due to the fact that Lutein has the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect the brain from oxidative stress and free radical damage. Science also had proven that there is a presence of Lutein in breastmilk and the fetal retina. This furthers suggests how critical of a role Lutein plays in the infants and young children population. Many doctors now recommend that expecting mothers take a daily carotenoid supplement (containing all three carotenoids L, Z, and MZ) so that their unborn child may receive the benefits directly as the fetus develops.

Interested in learning more about the health benefits of Lutein for kids?  Read the following Brain Blog article: Supplementing Lutein for Kids

A Lutein Supplement for Eye and Brain Health

In addition to 10 mg of Lutein, Memory Health® also contains the carotenoids Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin.  It combines these carotenoids with Omega-3s DHA and EPA and natural Vitamin E, to support cognitive functions, memory, and long-term eye and brain health. Memory Health® is currently patented for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease, specifically Alzheimer's and dementia. It has been clinically proven to improve cognitive functions in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment, and its benefits include improvement in sight, cognition, memory, focus, and mood.

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