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Lutein: More Than Meets the Eye

Strengthen your eye health and promote sharp vision by maintaining this essential nutrient in your diet.

| May/June 2019


Photo by Getty Images/Sjale

If you’ve ever picked up a bottle of vitamins for eye health, you may have noticed lutein listed on the label. Lutein is a yellow plant pigment classified as a carotenoid. Unlike beta-carotene, a well-known carotenoid, your body can’t convert lutein to vitamin A, an essential eye nutrient. However, lutein supports your vision in other ways.

Lutein is a powerful antioxidant and helps protect your eyes against oxidative stress caused by light exposure. “When you consume lutein, it’s transported to your eyes where it acts as an internal pair of sunglasses, protecting them from ultraviolet and blue light, originating from sources such as sunlight, digital devices, and energy-efficient light bulbs,” says Sandra Young, OD, author of Visionary Kitchen: A Cookbook for Eye Health.

That protection may help reduce the risk of certain eye diseases, as well as support the function of healthy eyes. Here’s a closer look at how lutein benefits eye health and how you can incorporate more of it into your diet.

At a Glance: Lutein in Eye Health

During an eye exam, the doctor shines a light in your eyes to see the retina, which lines the back of the eyeball. The retina converts light into impulses that travel to your brain, where they’re perceived as images. In the center of the retina is the macula, which has a yellow optical layer over it. That color comes from lutein and a closely related compound, zeaxanthin.

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