Lutein is a member of the carotenoid family and is a lipophilic bioactive. It is related to beta-carotene. Foods rich in lutein include broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, and squash. It is a powerful antioxidant and has the ability to protect DNA and proteins against free radical damage.
Lutein is an important pigment that is concentrated in the human macula lutea (yellow spot of the eye). Some studies have suggested that sufficient intake of lutein can prevent macular degeneration and reduce the risk for cataracts.
Recent research has shown that the benefits of lutein go beyond vision and eye health. Lutein also supports brain function and enhances memory and learning. It has been postulated that lutein is the dominant carotenoid in the brain, where it influences visual processing and other neural functions. Individuals with mild cognitive impairment have been shown to have reduced lutein status and boosting levels with supplements is associated with improvements in memory.