Lutein is a carotenoid vitamin that is found in many foods, including broccoli, spinach, kale, kiwi, grapes, squash and more. For many years, lutein has been known as the "eye vitamin" because it is one of two major carotenoids found as a color pigment in the human eye (macula and retina). It is believed that lutein works as a light filter, protecting the eye from sunlight damage.
Eating foods high in lutein is the best way to get the benefits of the vitamin, but that isn't always possible. Lutein is absorbed best when it is taken with a high-fat meal. But with so many lutein supplements on the market today, it is easy to add some extra lutein to your life. A lutein supplement won't make up for a diet low in fruits and vegetables, so it should be used as an addition to a well-balanced diet.
Lutein is best known for its benefits to the eye, helping to reduce the risk of damage that leads to macular degeneration (AMD) and possibly slowing the development of cataracts. Many published studies have discussed these benefits, showing that a lutein supplement can account for a 10 to 25 percent reduced risk of AMD progression.
However, your eyes aren't the only thing that will benefit from lutein. New research has shown that lutein is also imperative in cognitive development, improving brain function in everyone from infants to the elderly. Lutein plays a role in ongoing brain maintenance and aging, so a supplement can help with mental sharpness as the years pass by. Research has also shown that students with increased levels of lutein score higher on tests, have improved processing speed and better memory function.
While maintaining a diet that gets you lutein naturally is a more balanced approach to reaping the benefits of the super vitamin, you can choose to take a lutein supplement to help things along. Lutein supplements, while not providing results as good as lutein ingested through food, still have a positive effect on both eye development and cognitive function. Lutein supplements come in a range of milligrams, but you should try to limit yourself to a supplement that is 25 mg or less, as that is the range that has been researched safely for daily use.