Macular degeneration and Lutein

HE HAS MADE IT TO AGE 99, AND I am a so proud of my great uncle, Mr. Dunichand, who was born in the Himalayas. But when he was diagnosed with loss of vision in one eye, due to macular degeneration, I was fortunate to have information on the need for antioxidants, particularly lutein, in my research files. We have started him on softgel supplements, and our hopes are high for a family bash on his 100th birthday, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, next July.

The gift of lutein extract comes to us from the exotic marigold flowers commonly strewn before Hindu statues in the ornate temples of my native India. Lutein is also found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, leaf lettuce, green peas, spinach, and carrots. People who have the good sense to eat five or more servings of vegetables per day will benefit greatly from lutein, which is a representative carotenoid, a class of compounds found in all fruits and vegetables.

A study done in England involved 50,000 women over an eight-year period. The conclusions showed that eating spinach, a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, lead to a much lower level of cataract formation than the other vegetables included in the diet, including carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.

Johanna Seddon, M.D., and associates at Harvard University, in a research study found that taking a mg per day of lutein lead to a 43 percent lower risk for macular degeneration, compared to a control group of people who did not take this level of lutein. They also found that there was no positive connection between ingestion of beta carotene, lycopene (in tomatoes), or other carotenoids to lower the risk of macular degeneration. Dr. Seddon looked at foods like kale and collard greens, and found that people who eat large amounts of these greens are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. Mustard greens and turnip greens are also high in lutein and its isomer zeaxanthin. The review article by Max Snodderly, M.D., at The Schepens Eye Research Institute, also at Harvard University, summarizes the evidence that lutein is an important factor in the protection of the macular region of the retina.

Researchers at Tufts University, USDA Research Center in Boston, showed for the first time that lutein and zeaxanthin were found in the lens of the human eye. Their study also confirmed that no other carotenoids are found in the eye, including beta carotene, Iycopene and other carotenoids.

Johanna M. Seddon et al, 1994. Journal of American Medical Association 272: 1413-20.

S. E. Hankinson et al, 1992. British Medical Journal 305: 335-9.

D. Max Snodderly, 1995. American Journal Clinical Nutrition 62S: 1448S-61S.

K. J. Yeum et al, 1995. Investigative Opthalmologist, Vision Science, 36: 2756-61.

PHOTO (COLOR): Marigold Flower


by Josephine Mahi

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