Lutein and DHA for the Preservation of Your Eyesight

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Lutein is a type of carotene that accumulates in the macular region of your eyes.  DHA is an essential fatty acid highly concentrated in your eyes.  It has been established for a number of years that essential fatty acids, especially DHA, reduce the risk for macular degeneration.  Likewise, supplements of the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin are also proven to accumulate in the macular region of your eyes when consistently taken at appropriate doses (20 mg of lutein per day).  Several new human trials confirm these benefits.  Lutein and DHA are superior eye health nutrients and the cornerstone of an eyesight preservation plan.

A 12-month random, double-blind, placebo controlled study of Chinese drivers found that 20 mg of lutein per day significantly increased macular pigment optical density (the key measurement of age-related macular degeneration).  Those who took lutein reported improvements in visual functioning, including better contrast perception and reduced glare sensitivity.  A second recent Chinese study confirmed that 20 mg of lutein was an excellent dose for significantly boosting macular pigment optical density.

Another 12-month random, double-blind, placebo controlled British study of older patients found that lutein significantly increased macular pigment optical density, with a notable impact on preventing the eyesight deterioration that continued to occur in the control group.

A 6-month random, double-blind, placebo controlled Austrian study in patients with age-related macular degeneration found that lutein boosted macular pigment optical density by a significant 27.9 percent, consistent with improvements in functional eyesight.  The dose of lutein used in the study was 20 mg per day for the first three months and 10 mg per day for the last three months.

A 12-month random, double-blind, placebo controlled Spanish study in age-related macular degeneration patients tested the combination of 12 mg lutein per day with 280 mg of DHA.  The nutrient combination significantly raised macular pigment optical density.

A 36-month French study in patients with early signs of macular degeneration sought to see if DHA could prevent the “wet” form of macular degeneration that involves the blood vessels behind the retina.  The dose used was 840 mg of DHA per day.  This dose significantly elevated the red blood cell levels of DHA in some of the patients, who were then 68 percent less likely to experience eye damage.  In some patients the 840 mg of DHA did not elevate DHA high enough to offer protection.  Some individuals may need higher amounts of DHA for eyesight protection.

Since DHA has many uses in your body, especially in the resolution of inflammation, some individuals will need higher levels for multiple needs that include eye health.  Individuals with inflammatory problems, depression, cardiovascular problems, or weight problems are likely to need higher doses of DHA for eye health, due to multiple concurrent demands for the nutrient.

Likewise, lutein is part of an overall antioxidant team.  A new study shows that lutein lowers levels of inflammatory C reactive protein.  This is good but it also means that if a person is low in antioxidants then lutein could be diverted away from the eyes to help with other needs.  Thus, it is best to take lutein as part of a comprehensive antioxidant supplementation plan, helping spare lutein for its beneficial use in eyesight preservation.

All of these recent lutein studies build an impressive array of human science showing that lutein can enhance the macular pigment of your eyes to help prevent the dry form of age-related macular degeneration.  DHA can help prevent the wet form. 

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness.  As with any health problem the sooner it is addressed the better the chance for recovery or preventing further deterioration.  Consistent nutrient supplementation of lutein and DHA to help preserve your eyesight is now backed by solid human science.

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