Lutein Important at Any Age

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12/05/2013
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Interviewer: Doctor one of the things that you talk about is lutein at any age. Can you explain that a little bit? And exactly what age are we talking about starting to make sure that we maintain eye health?

Dr. Stringham: Yeah. As we talked about before with Macular Degeneration, this launched the research with lutein and it was thought to be something you could plug a hole late in life and maybe help yourself get through Macular Degeneration or what have you. The more research that's been done on lutein, it's shifting backwards. Some work that I've done on adults indicates that more lutein in the eye, this "macular pigment" as it's called, confers major benefits with visual performance, glare, less visual discomforts. You can see through glare. Your vision speeds up. Basically the faster visual processing center is because of the lutein and that's partly due to the retina, partly due to what gets to the brain. So you have faster reaction times. Also more recently, there's data on cognitive performance, on memory performance, on language performance. That's huge. We're talking about potentially staving off dementia, delaying the onset of Alzheimer's. Those kinds of things. So that's adult effects.

But getting back, working back, more recently, and this is in the last 7 or 8 years, lutein has been shown to be incorporated in utero. It gets stored. It gets passed from the mother via the umbilical cord to the baby. The body uses it. It stores it in special areas. And then when the brain and the eyes start to develop, it pours the lutein into those areas to sort of act as the building inspector and catch anything that's wrong and quench these potentially damaging oxidative species that happen quite frequently in development. We're talking about rapid development, the peak of neurogenesis where you're developing brain cells at 500,000 per minute. That's an outstanding metabolic event. You need some antioxidant in there to sort of quench the bad stuff.

Interviewer: What about supplementing it for little kids? How do you go about doing that and making sure they're getting what they need?

Dr. Stringham Right, this is the unstudied population. Kids, we know that it's great for babies, the fetus. Right after you're born, breast milk is rich with lutein assuming mom's getting some in her diet. Kids we don't know so much about. Then adults, we know quite a bit about. And so I have three daughters myself and I do know this about kids. They don't really overall like vegetables--the stuff that has lutein in them. And I'm doing this research and I'm thinking, "Ah! How do I get it into these kids?" Well, in terms of a supplement that might be a good idea, putting it in something else with a little bit of fat in it. Some sort of chocolate milk lutein or something like that might be a good idea.

Interviewer: Sure.

Dr. Stringham But what I do and what my wife and I do, we stuff spinach into a blender, a bunch of it. And you make a smoothie out of it. You put a bunch of blueberries in it and it masks the flavor of the spinach.

Interviewer: Sure.

Dr. Stringham: And they love them. And so we feel like, "Gosh. Alright. So they're getting some of it." And my oldest daughter is coming up on 10 years old and I've measured what she has in her eye. It's about the cut off age when they can actually do the test to measure it in her eye. And she's at a fairly high level and that's encouraging.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Dr. Stringham:  It's doing something. It's getting in there.
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Dr. Jim Stringham discusses the importance of lutein for not only eye heath, but also cognition and memory issues as well. He also discusses the benefits of lutein levels in younger adults as well as infants and younger.

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