Lutein belongs to the xanthophylls, a subgroup of the carotene family. Carotenoids are a group of over 600 compounds known as the carotenoid pigments. These pigments give yellow, green or orange coloration to vegetables and fruits and are precursors for vitamin A or retinol, an essential chromophore in all known visual systems. Lutein is naturally found in egg yolk and several plants including collard greens, kale, leeks, peas, romaine lettuce and spinach.Lutein is a yellow carotenoid pigment produced by plants and found in our eyes in the central area of the retina, called macula. The macula is a small, concentrated collection of photosensitive cells in the middle of the retina, directly behind the lens, that is responsible for central vision. In front of the photoreceptor is the neural retina. The neural retina is a network of various nerve and other cells that carry visual signals laterally to the optic nerve. A special antioxidant pigment accumulates within the neural retina directly over the central macular region.
This antioxidant is observed as a yellow spot called the macula lutea. This yellow pigment is derived from the diet in foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, a non-vitamin A carotenoid pigment that is a cousin to beta-carotene. While vitamin A, beta-carotene and lycopene are also members of the carotenoid family, researchers have found that lutein is the carotenoid found most abundantly in the eye. Recent evidence suggests lutein/zeaxanthin acts similarly to yellow "blue-blocking" sunglass filters, protecting receptors from bleaching by sunlight and oxidative damage.Dietary lutein is considered an essential micronutrient for normal vision. Lutein acts as a filter to protect the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells (cone cells) in macula from potentially damaging forms of light and light-originated free radical damages. Lutein protects the optic nerve and may help deter the development of age-related eye disorders such as macul