Lutein is a member of a family of chemical compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids provide much of the color found in vegetables and fruit. There are over 600 known carotenoids and they all offer benefit. Lutein provides the yellow-orange in vegetables such as squash and carrots. The orange in egg yolks is from lutein. It is also found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale (kale offers the highest concentration). Lutein is naturally accompanied by its mirror image cousin, zeaxanthin.
Lutein / zeaxanthin (and all the other carotenoids) are potent antioxidants.* The particular benefit offered by these carotenoids is sun protection for the skin and eyes.* When consumed through diet and/or supplements, lutein / zeaxanthin build up in the layers of the skin and the retina of the eye. Someone who eats lots of carrots and leafy green vegetables (and takes supplements) will display light “bronzing” of the palms and soles of the feet (don’t worry, the slight orange tint is not obvious unless you look for it, but does add to your warm healthy glow!). The main benefits of lutein include:*
But benefit goes beyond UV light. UV light only accounts for about 10% of radiation from the sun. The rest is made up of visible and infrared light. These two forms of radiation are “non-ionizing.” In other words, they don’t cause direct tissue damage–but they do generate free radicals when the particles of light strike other molecules in tissues. And guess what…sunscreen offers no protection against this type of radiation. Sunscreen will block UV, but not visible or infrared. Therefore consuming lots of lutein / zeaxanthin is the one of the best ways to keep your skin looking healthy!*