Understanding
Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Understanding
Lutein & Zeaxanthin

“Eat your fruits and vegetables.” It’s a familiar phrase you may have heard coming from a parent or a health professional, but why? Because fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that keep your body functioning at its best. Lutein (pronounced looh-teen) is classified as a carotenoid, along with zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin), beta-carotene (bayta-carrot-teen), and lycopene (ly-coh-peen). These nutrients are responsible for the bright natural colors of our fruits and vegetables – green, yellow, red, and orange – and they can also help protect our overall health, especially our eyes, skin, and brain.

Across Life Stages

Lutein and zeaxanthin are used by the body throughout life: as infants, while our vision is developing; as we mature during childhood; and as our eyes become more vulnerable with age:

Neonatal: Important for prenatal development of eyes and brain

Infancy: Identified as the major carotenoid in breast milk

From childhood to senior years:

  • Exclusively deposited in the macula of the eye
  • Classified as a predominant carotenoid in the brain
  • Supports stress, sleep, and emotional well-being
  • Found in the outermost layers of the skin (epidermis and dermis)

How lutein & zeaxanthin work in the eye

How lutein & zeaxanthin work in the eye

Fetal and childhood development

By 6-14 weeks in gestation, lutein is transferred through the umbilical cord to the eye where it begins to accumulate. By 20-22 weeks in gestation, lutein is diverted to the newly developing retina, supporting tissues and key layers like the macula. In the growing child/adolescent, proper intake of dietary carotenoids supports for the healthy development of the eyes.

Limiting Oxidation

One of the most important roles for lutein and zeaxanthin to protect the macula. These nutrients act as potent antioxidants against a process called oxidation that can result in too much free radicals that can damage and cellular changes in this vulnerable part of the eye. Oxidation is a normal process, occurring from exposure to blue light, sunlight and as a normal part of aging, but antioxidants can help slow this process, protect and preserve our eye health.

Enhancing central vision

Lutein and zeaxanthin isomers are highly concentrated in the macula, or the area of the eye responsible for our central vision, thus their characterization as “macular carotenoids.” They are responsible for the sharpness with which we see things, also known as visual acuity. Research has shown that greater concentration of these nutrients leads to greater macular pigment, which can help filter light and enhance our visual detail and contrast. Studies also suggest that greater macular pigment density can increase the speed with which we adapt to the dark and have greater recovery from glare. What this means is support for real-life occurrences like driving at night, processing images, helping us see in dim light, and preventing the type of eye strain that might occur after staring at a computer for too long.

How lutein & zeaxanthin affect sleep

How lutein & zeaxanthin affect sleep

Proper sleep

Many external factors can disrupt a normal night’s sleep including the sleep environment like light, noise, and temperature as well as overexposure to blue light-emitting screens and devices. Internally, our sleep habits also may change as we age, or as we go through phases of managing greater levels of stress, anxiety, and the inability to rest or relax. Dietary supplementation including lutein and zeaxanthin has been shown to support some of these elements. First, it is shown to filter out high energy blue light from digital devices, and hence, reduces eye strain and fatigue associated with the use of these devices. It has also been shown to reduce stress, promote a feeling of relaxation, support mental and emotional well-being, and help support a restful, quality sleep.

Proper sleep

Many external factors can disrupt a normal night’s sleep including the sleep environment like light, noise, and temperature as well as overexposure to blue light-emitting screens and devices. Internally, our sleep habits also may change as we age, or as we go through phases of managing greater levels of stress, anxiety, and the inability to rest or relax. Dietary supplementation including lutein and zeaxanthin has been shown to support some of these elements. First, it is shown to filter out high energy blue light from digital devices, and hence, reduces eye strain and fatigue associated with the use of these devices. It has also been shown to reduce stress, promote a feeling of relaxation, support mental and emotional well-being, and help support a restful, quality sleep.

How sleep and lack of sleep affect us

Persistent exposure to stress and lack of sleep can impact brain function, mood, and energy levels. As a result, we can suffer from the inability to focus, attend, and learn properly. Researchers have shown that Lutemax supports some aspects of cognition, e.g., recognizing and processing information, performing memory recall tasks, sustained attention, and response to psychomotor tasks.

How lutein & zeaxanthin work in the brain

How lutein & zeaxanthin work in the brain

Infancy

Because the eye is an extension of the nervous system in the body which stems from the brain, it is not surprising that lutein and zeaxanthin are also important to our brain health.

Evidence of the need for infant development includes the fact that there is considerable accumulation of lutein in the infant brain. This is despite the fact that other carotenoids are more prevalent in infant diets, making it likely that lutein plays a role in early brain development. Also, breast milk and colostrum are rich in lutein when the mother’s diet is rich in lutein, again signaling a need for lutein in an infant’s developing brain

Cognitive function

In adults, the macular pigment density in the eyes is directly related to the level of cognitive function.

We also see that in the brain, as in the eye, lutein may help the neurons of the brain talk with one another and may help improve cognitive function.

Research has also shown that with greater macular pigment density, comes improved cognitive function in healthy older adults as measured by improvements in verbal fluency, memory and rate of learning.

Limiting oxidation

Also, by evidence of the fact that lutein is the predominant carotenoid in our brains both early and late in life, scientists associate lutein with the inhibition of free radicals formed by oxidation in the brain.

It is at these times in our lives that the retina and brain are changing dramatically and the brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidation, requiring the additional support of carotenoids like lutein.

How lutein & zeaxanthin work on the skin

How lutein & zeaxanthin work on the skin

Structural protection

Lutein and zeaxanthin also play an important role for our skin. Lutein is found in the outermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and in the next layer, known as the dermis and, along with other carotenoids, is thought to contribute to skin color (pigment) and protection of the structural components of the skin from breakdown. Similar to their roles in the eye, lutein and zeaxanthin have two primary functions in the skin:

1. Antioxidants

2. Filters of high energy blue light from sources such as the sun

We can see through research that people who supplemented with a combination of carotenoids including beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene applied directly to the skin experienced less redness and swelling associated with sunburn after exposure to UV light. Also, people supplemented with a combination of vitamins C and lutein and omega-3 fatty acids provided protection.

Learn more about the health benefits of lutein + zeaxanthin to help protect your eyes, brain and skin

Learn more about the health benefits of lutein + zeaxanthin to help protect your eyes, brain and skin