Image: Actual lutein scores from attendees at the 2018 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo®.
Lutein is an important carotenoid that has been shown to act as internal sunglasses, protecting our eyes from harmful blue light. It also prevents against macular degeneration and other age-related eye diseases. Emerging research shows lutein’s benefits may extend beyond eye health, impacting cognitive function and brain health across the lifespan.
Last week at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE®), researchers Elizabeth Jonson, PhD, from Tufts University and Naiman Khan, PhD, RD, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented on the science supporting lutein’s role in eye and brain health.
Below are key takeaways from the session:
- Current intake of lutein is lower than what is needed for optimal eye and brain health.
- Lutein levels in the eye and brain can be measured through a non-invasive eye test that assesses macular pigment, known as Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD).
- Children with greater macular pigment optical density have better executive function, relational memory and academic performance. Find out more here.
- Research demonstrates that brain lutein levels are associated with cognitive function in the elderly.1
- A diet with lutein-containing foods could be an effective strategy for protecting eye and brain health. Lutein-containing foods include: eggs, green leafy vegetables and avocados.
- Lutein bioavailability is enhanced when it is consumed with dietary fat, therefore lutein from eggs has shown to be greater than other sources.2
- Research has shown positive effects on eye disease prevention at dietary intake levels of ~6mg/day.3
There is currently no Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for lutein, leaving a gap of awareness around this critical nutrient.
Download our free educational resource on lutein here.
- Johnson, E. J., Vishwanathan, R., Johnson, M. A., Hausman, D. B., Davey, A., Scott, T. M., . . . Poon, L. W. (2013). Relationship between Serum and Brain Carotenoids,α-Tocopherol, and Retinol Concentrations and Cognitive Performance in the Oldest Old from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Journal of Aging Research,2013, 1-13.
- Chung, H., Rasmussen, H. M., & Johnson, E. J. (2004). Lutein Bioavailability Is Higher from Lutein-Enriched Eggs than from Supplements and Spinach in Men. The Journal of Nutrition,134(8), 1887-1893.
- Seddon, J. M. (1994). Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association,272(18), 1413-1420.