Macular Degeneration


1. What is lutein?

Lutein is an abundant carotenoid found in many fruits and vegetables. Spinach and kale contain the highest levels of lutein, but it is also present in corn and egg yolks.

2. Where is lutein found in the human body?

Lutein has been found in the eye, skin, cervix and the breast. Lutein is deposited in the macular region of the eye as well as the entire retina and lens.

3. How does lutein work?

Lutein belongs to a chemical class of compounds called carotenoids. As an antioxidant, lutein may protect the macula tissue from damaging oxidation by filtering blue light. Lutein absorbs damaging UV radiation and dissipates it harmlessly.

4. How much lutein should I consume?

No formal recommendations for lutein exist yet. Nutritionists use 6 milligrams per day as a good guideline, based on existing research.

5. What is a better source of lutein, cooked or raw vegetables?

Cooked vegetables. In raw vegetables, lutein is locked within the vegetable's cellular structure. Cooking unlocks the cell walls and releases lutein, improving bioavailability. Lutein is more easily absorbed when vegetables are cooked or served with a source of fat, such as cooking oil or butter.

6. How much raw spinach do I need to consume to get 6 milligrams of lutein?

You must eat at least two ounces or 58 grams of fresh spinach to achieve the suggested daily dose of 6 milligrams/day. This is equivalent to at least two salad bowls of spinach per day. Only a small percentage of people consume 6 milligrams or more of lutein per day.

7. Can your body produce lutein?

No. Your body is unable to manufacture lutein. Consumption of either a balanced diet or dietary supplements are the only ways for your body to obtain lutein.

8. Should I take lutein supplements?

Test your average lutein intake from foods. If you're not getting enough lutein through your diet, you may want to consider supplements.

9. What is the macula?

The macula is a small spot located directly behind the lens in the middle portion of the retina. It is responsible for central vision.

10. What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in individuals over the age of 65 in the U.S. and in other industrialized countries. AMD occurs when the cells in the macula begin to break down, eventually causing loss of sight in the central part of the field of vision, but leaving peripheral vision intact.

11. Who is at higher risk for macular degeneration?

There are several factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease: age, diet, lifetime exposure to sunlight, smoking, heredity, gender, race, eye color, alcohol consumption and heart disease. For example, individuals with blue/green eyes, seniors, women, smokers and Caucasians are all at higher risk.

12. What can I do to protect myself from AMD?

While there are factors over which you have no control such as age, heredity and sex, you can improve your lifestyle. Here are some tips: wear sunglasses and brimmed hats that protect you from direct or reflected sunlight; eat a diet rich in fruits and leafy green vegetables (such as spinach); stop smoking; and limit your intake of alcohol, saturated fats and cholesterol.

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