Lutein Ester Supplements Play a Role in Reducing Macular Degeneration

THE NETHERLANDS—A study published in 2000 showed that supplements of natural lutein esters resulted in increased macular pigment, which may play a role in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among older adults.

Researchers achieved two main objectives: (1) They found that lutein ester supplements increased macular pigment optical density, a significant finding since the macular pigment may protect against AMD, and (2) they completed the first study to show the effects of lutein ester supplementation using objective measurement techniques.

In the study, eight male volunteers took lutein ester supplements derived from marigolds, providing a daily dose of 10 mg. of lutein for 12 weeks. All subjects showed a substantial increase in plasma lutein concentration. The macular pigment is important because it may protect the macular region of the eye, the small-central part of the retina essential for fine detailed vision. In addition, lutein and zeaxanthin are capable of scavenging free radicals, which may contribute to disease and aging.

“This study is important because it provides additional evidence that lutein supplementation increases macular pigment levels which are thought to protect against AMD,” said John Landrum, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at Florida International University.

“There is [currently] no cure for AMD. Macular pigment is thought to reduce the damaging effects of blue light on the retina. Use of lutein supplements may provide this important protection for individuals who have low levels of macular pigment. The supplement used in this study increases both blood and macular levels of lutein demonstrating that the supplement is well absorbed,” he explained.

(Adapted from Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2000; Vol. 41: (3322 – 3326.)

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