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Lutein: A boomer twofer

A new review suggests the carotenoid may benefit the visual and cognitive health of older people. 

Lutein may provide a double benefit, and in two areas of particular interest to millions of aging boomers: vision and cognition.

“The role of lutein and (its isomer) zeaxanthin and visual and cognitive health throughout the lifespan is compelling,” writes Elizabeth J. Johnson in an article published in an early, online issue of Nutrition Review. The article was noted on foodconsumer.org.

A naturally occurring carotenoid found in leafy greens, lutein’s sight-saving powers are well documented. Lutein's ability to increase macula pigmentation has been shown to have a direct effect on preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss for older American. Lutein's role in cataract prevention — which affects a reported 20.5 million Americans over age 40 — has also been suggested in human clinical trials.

Though there’s much evidence supporting the carotenoids' link to eye health, including new research that suggests it helps diabetics maintain eye health, researchers have only recently begun to look into their role in cognition.

Americans are only getting about ten percent of the lutein we need to protect our eyes. And, most people are unfamiliar with the compound and its importance entirely. Johnson’s review of research suggests that “further investigation into the role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive health throughout the lifespan” is warranted, according to her abstract.

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