Lutein Supplements vs Food Sources

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Interviewer: When you talk about Lutein supplements, does the body recognize the Lutein in a supplement the same way it would through a food source?

Dr. Stringham: Well, probably not exactly the same way. It certainly does make an impact. You can measure it in the blood after people are taking the supplement. In a food source, remember that spinach just doesn't contain Lutein. It's got a two or three hundred other ingredients, and so presumably the body is developed to recognize the pattern of ingredients so it knows what to do with each one and package it. That's called the Food Matrix.

A Lutein supplement obviously, is primarily Lutein. It needs to be taken with some fat. It's lipid soluble. It does get incorporated. The efficiency of it is somewhere, depending on the supplement type, probably along the lines of maybe 60 to 75 percent as efficient as a food source that's taken with fat as well. Still very good. Obviously, the body recognizes the structure, the molecular structure of Lutein, knows what to do with it and where to put it. We measure that in the eye.

Interviewer: When somebody is going to take a lutein supplement and you mentioned take it with a fat, but what else should they look for in terms of amount? What other ingredients might be in that supplement? Do they take it with food as well? I mean, what do they need to know?

Dr. Stringham: It's a good idea to, if you're taking a supplement to take it with a meal. Part of this well rounded kind of, diet idea. There is some evidence that it might compete, that the body might compete with, for carotenoid absorption. So if you eating, for instance, some oranges or some other kinds of foods that contain carotenoids. Many carotenoids, maybe blueberries, strawberries, peppers for instance. You might not get as much benefit of the Lutein. I would say that's not a bad situation to be in if you're eating a rich carotenoid diet overall and if that's a consistent thing in your life, but that's something to know.

Oftentimes I recommend people take, if you're going to take a fish oil supplement, which a lot of people do and obviously, that's a good thing for most people. Take the fish oil, which is a fat, a DHA, source of fat, Omega- 3 fats and then take Lutein right after. Then you're getting the full benefit of Lutein. It goes in; it's not competing with other carotenoids to get absorbed into the bloodstream. That's a sound recommendation.
We all probably are deficient in lutein. But if we supplement it, does our body recognize it the same as lutein that's in food? Dr. Jim Stringham discusses lutein supplements and what you need to know before selecting one. He also discusses the difference between supplements and lutein via a food source.

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