What are lutein and zeaxanthin?
Oxidative stress due to free radicals causes an array of dysfunctions that may work at the DNA level, up the ladder to development of diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and skin aging. Free radicals are generated because of strenuous activities like vigorous exercise, due to pollution and unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices. While our body has an elaborate antioxidant system, overproduction of free radicals may overwhelm this system and create oxidative stress within the body. Thus, to supplement our defence against oxidative stress, it is vital to consume a diet that is rich in natural and potent antioxidants.
Our fruits and vegetables come in different shades of the basic colours. Vibrant, fresh and attractive, the colours are due to the presence of various pigments, two of them being lutein and zeaxanthin. Since they cannot be produced by our body, diet and supplements are the only ways to get them.
Dietary sources of high quality antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin include broccoli, kale, spinach, other green, leafy vegetables, zucchini, eggs and orange pepper. Commonly known as the ‘eye vitamins’, they belong to the family of pigments known as carotenoids. They are the most common, naturally occurring carotenoids that are concentrated in the macula region of the eye. They exhibit anti- oxidation properties and protect the eyes from macular degeneration, cataracts and damage due to light.
Another site of natural occurrence of these “wonder nutrients” is our skin. Their intrinsic anti- oxidation properties protect the skin, improve moisture retention and have anti- aging effects. Since skin aging and other skin- related conditions can be attributed to oxidative stress, the use of lutein and zeaxanthin as supplements can offer beneficial effects.