In my upcoming book, The Gene Therapy Plan, I discuss in detail how lutein is one of many antioxidants that you can eat. So you don’t have to reply on only supplements to improve your health and slow down aging. Lutein has many health benefits that I’ll expand on here—it is truly an anti-aging gem.

First, let’s take a look at its food sources. Lutein is a carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables such as carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, squash, mangoes, and tomatoes a yellow and orange pigment. Lutein is also found in dark, leafy, green vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, collards, and bok choy. However, egg yolk appears to be the best source of lutein. In one study, for instance, participants who consumed eggs as their source of lutein had higher blood levels of lutein. Lecithin in egg yolk, among other components, has been identified as the cause for the increased absorption of lutein.

So, why categorize lutein as an anti-aging nutrient? There’s evidence to support the efficacy of lutein in treating your eyes, brain, heart, skin, lungs, and joints—and it can even fight cancer. Lutein has been shown to protect against the development of two age-associated eye disorders, cataracts and macular degeneration. Both of these eye conditions are quite common. But lutein and zeaxanthin (another carotenoid) develop the yellow pigment of the retina and absorb blue light, which is a harmful part of sunlight. Studies have shown that lutein protects against oxidative damage caused by light.

When it comes to heart health, researchers have shown that lutein is protective against atherosclerosis. Researchers reported that individuals with the highest consumption of lutein at the beginning of the study did not have any additional arterial plaque buildup at the end of the 18-month study; whereas, arterial clogging worsened among those in the study who consumed the lowest amounts of lutein. Surgically removed sections of human arteries further demonstrated the efficacy of lutein against plaque formation in blood vessels. The resected arterial tissues were treated with lutein and found to attract fewer white blood cells, which are involved in the development diseased arteries.

Lutein also plays an important role in slowing down the effects of an aging brain. A lab study in which rats were fed spinach (as well as blueberries and strawberries) showed signs of reversed age-related deficits in brain and behavioral aging. The consumption of six to 10 milligrams of lutein daily has been shown to provide antioxidants in that’ll reduce oxidative damage to the skin. Researchers are reporting that the consumption of lutein improves lung tissue, which is particularly important because of the implications that it has for smokers. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that arthritic symptoms of the knee decreased by 70% among people with the highest consumption of lutein. Lutein has also been shown to increase apoptosis, impair DNA repair, and inhibit angiogenesis in cancer.

While there are a growing number of studies that support the effects of lutein as an anti-aging nutrient, it’s important to realize that the verdict is not yet out on the best approach when it comes to consumption. In other words, are the same effects found when lutein is consumed in supplement form, rather than via food? And how much lutein do you need to consume to prevent and treat health problems?

Some experts recommend four to six milligrams daily. Lutein is a nutrient that is plentiful in the Asian diet, but one survey found that Americans consume only about two milligrams of lutein daily. To bolster this number, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests adding one full egg (yolk and all) and 1 cup of spinach to a salad to reach your daily recommended amount of lutein. Although egg yolk is considered a great source of lutein, you should limit your intake if you have high cholesterol and focus on eating fruits and vegetables that are high in lutein.

Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, et al. Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. The Journal of Neuroscience. 1999;19(18):8114-8121.
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