Lutein improves visual performance and night vision, and may help those with age-related macular degeneration*
by Newsletter Editor
Lutein improves visual performance in low-light environments and night vision
Lutein is a carotenoid stored in the eye and is essential for good vision. Lutein, along with another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, helps reduce discomfort from glare and shortens the time it takes to recover from bright light. Doctors know lutein can improve vision, but few studies have tested lutein in occupations that require night vision.
In this study, 120 healthy drivers who spent an average of 10 hours per day driving during the two years before the study took a placebo or 20 mg of lutein per day. After one year, while there were no changes for placebo, those who took lutein tended to have better distance vision, and had much better sensitivity to contrast and glare, especially at night. The lutein group also had higher levels of lutein in the blood and stored in the eye, and had better visual function scores on the National Eye Institute driving scale.
Discussing their findings, doctors said that although the results do not reveal a direct link between taking lutein supplements and changes in visual acuity, the evidence is clear that lutein supplements can significantly improve visual performance and visual quality of life in low-light environments.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 increases macular pigment
The protective pigment in the macula of the eye contains lutein and zeaxanthin; carotenoids which must come from diet. In this study, 145 people with dry AMD took a placebo or a combination of 10 mg lutein, 1 mg zeaxanthin, 100 mg DHA, 30 mg EPA, 60 mg vitamin C, 20 mg vitamin E, 10 mg zinc, and 0.25 mg copper, or double these dosages per day. After 12 months, macular pigment decreased in the placebo group but increased by 20 percent in the lower-dose supplement group, and by 28.4 percent in the higher-dose group.
Antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin reduce AMD chances
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where sight deteriorates in the center of the field of vision, is the most common form of age-related blindness. Doctors believe antioxidants can slow the disease, and several long-term studies tested the effects of these supplements. The basic eye supplement included 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene, 80 mg zinc, and 2 mg copper per day. In the first study, 3,549 participants with early-stage AMD took the antioxidant supplement, with or without the zinc, or a placebo. After 10 years, those who had taken the antioxidants, with or without zinc, were 25-30 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD. Also, those who did take zinc were less likely to have passed away, especially from circulatory diseases.
In the second study, 4,203 participants who were more likely to progress to advanced AMD took the basic antioxidant formula, with or without beta-carotene, plus 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin; 350 mg of DHA with 650 of mg EPA, these four antioxidants together, or a placebo. After five years, while there was no overall effect on advanced AMD, those who had taken lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene were slightly less likely to have advanced AMD compared to those who had taken beta-carotene.
Also, former smokers in the study who had taken beta-carotene had a higher incidence of lung cancer than those who had not. Doctors concluded lutein and zeaxanthin could be an appropriate substitute for beta-carotene in the antioxidant eye formula. In a separate analysis of the second study above, doctors ranked the 4,203 participants according to lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet. Those who got the least lutein and zeaxanthin from their diets were 32 percent less likely to need cataract surgery after adding lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 help those with AMD
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the progressive loss of sight in the center of the field of vision, the most common form of blindness. To filter the harmful light that can trigger AMD, the eye requires the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. In this study, 145 people with dry AMD, where the layer of pigment in the eye has thinned, took a placebo or a combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3. There were two doses: 10 mg of lutein, 1 mg of zeaxanthin, 100 mg of DHA, and 30 mg of EPA with antioxidants; or double these doses. After 12 months, while there were no changes for placebo, both lutein / zeaxanthin / omega-3 groups had similar increases in the density of the pigment layer of the eye, with benefits beginning at one month and continuing throughout the study.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin for eye health
Meso-zeaxanthin is the yellow pigment in the eye that contains lutein and zeaxanthin. Doctors wanted to achieve the highest combined concentrations of these carotenoids in 27 volunteers with normal vision and 27 with AMD, and tested three dosage levels of lutein and meso-zeaxanthin. All three groups took 2 mg of zeaxanthin per day. Group one also took 20 mg of lutein; group two 10 mg, and group three 3 mg of lutein. Group one took no meso-zeaxanthin; group two 10 mg, and group three 17 mg of meso-zeaxanthin per day. After eight weeks, circulating levels of meso-zeaxanthin had increased in all three groups, while group two had the highest combined concentrations of all three carotenoids.