Lutein has long been known as a powerful nutritional agent useful for protecting vision in aging adults and for protecting against the sight-robbing condition known as macular degeneration. New research published in The Journal of Nutrition finds that the carotenoid exhibits health-promoting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that help to lower plaque forming oxidized LDL cholesterol particles, which promote arterial hardening and heart disease. Lutein is found in abundance in dark green leafy vegetables including spinach, broccoli, kale and cabbage. Most adults and children should include a healthy serving of these vegetables as part of a nutritionally balanced diet or look to supplement daily to significantly lower heart disease risk from coronary plaque accumulation.
The study examined two groups of guinea pigs known to exhibit similar vascular characteristics to humans. Both groups were fed a diet high in cholesterol-laden foods for a period of 12 weeks, and half were supplemented with lutein. Carotenoids such as lutein are known to circulate in the blood and are stored by the body for future use when tissue saturation is reached. Research to date has shown how lutein accumulates in the retina to prevent macular degeneration and support vision, but little is known about how the compound impacts cardiovascular health.
Researchers understand that mammals with the highest levels of carotenoids circulating in their blood have the longest lifespan. Scientists were able to provide evidence that lutein is continually being stored and drawn from tissue deposits as needed. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this important carotene provides a significant degree of protection against the formation of arterial plaque and atherosclerosis. Lutein reduces the number of small, dense oxidized LDL cholesterol particles that compromise the elastic nature of the arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that carotenoids such as lutein can provide health benefits to multiple organs and should be consumed as part of a natural diet comprising a rainbow of colors from organic vegetables and fruits. Scientists have uncovered dozens of carotenoids and concede there are likely many more as yet unknown compounds that exist in a complete matrix of whole foods.
Interestingly, nutritional researchers have found that carotenoids from high quality supplements are easier to absorb when compared to carotenes from foods that are bound to fiber. Regardless of the source, carotenoids should be part of your daily antioxidant dietary plan to prevent arterial plaque formation and to lower the risk of atherosclerosis.
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