Lutein Protects the Eyes and Skin of Smokers

November 19, 2004

Antioxidants taken orally (by mouth) may play an important role in preventing damage to the fats and proteins that are part of the skin and eye. The ability of Lutein to protect the skin and eyes from the suns damaging radiation was evaluated in this study. 50 smokers (minimum of 10 cigarettes a day) between the ages of 25 and 36 who were affected by dry skin were given oral Lutein supplementation or placebo in a randomized, double-blind study. The amount of free radical activity was noted according to an accepted measurement system. Vision and other aspects of the eye were measured by different tests. Lutein decreased the amount of oxidative stress in the blood of the smokers by 40%. Vision improved, and global visual function clearly improved in the Lutein takers. The Lutein also offered photoprotective activity (protecting the skin from the suns rays) and it will eventually increase the protective activity of topical sunscreen lotions. Lutein also offered photoprotective activity to the eyes. The study is published in the November-December 2004 issue of the journal Skinmed.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.

It is very hard to increase antioxidant activity in smokers. Both smoking and sun exposure increase the risk of developing a cataract later in life. Lutein is the ideal supplement protecting the eyes of these individuals from both smoking and sun exposure. It is important to note that this Lutein was found in a base of its accompanying and activity promoting carotenoids (just like in nature).

Taking Lutein Before Eye Surgery May Protect the Retina

A dye called Indocyanine Green (ICG) is used to pinpoint leakage or damage to the blood vessels which nourish the retina in diagnostic tests of the eye. ICG is superior to other dyes when checking for possible retinal damage due to macular degeneration because it has a longer wavelength than other dyes allowing the doctor to see blood vessel damage deeper within the eye. Once damage is determined the doctor can be more accurate if using laser technology to seal the area, helping to prevent damage to surrounding, still healthy eye tissue. ICG is injected into the arm and travels to the eye within 15 to 20 seconds serving as a contrast medium where sharper more accurate photos of the eye can be generated. The retinal doctor uses these digital photos of the eye to pinpoint the treatment of areas with leakage and damage. The problem is that previous studies have shown that although valuable, ICG damages the retinal pigment.

In this study scientists tested the direct toxic effect of ICG on retinal pigment tissue, they also checked if this damage is worsened after the eye is exposed to different levels of light. ICG was added to retinal pigment tissue, some of these tissue samples were also treated by the eye carotenoid Lutein. Some of the eye samples were then exposed to different levels of light energy for 48 hours. After two days it was found that ICG decreased the number of healthy-viable cells compared to cultures not exposed to ICG showing a direct toxic effect by ICG. In retinal tissue exposed to both light and ICG there was a significant decrease in working retinal cells compared to tissue exposed to ICG alone (the toxicity of ICG was increased by increasing levels of light exposure). Lutein protected the cells exposed to both ICG and light. The study suggests that taking Lutein before eye surgery or diagnostic tests decreases damage to the retina caused by the interaction of light and ICG. The study is published in the September 2004 issue of the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Drug Safty Alert

Dr David Graham, a Food and Drug Administration reviewer speaking at a Senate hearing, has accused the FDA as being lax on monitoring drug safety said five drugs on the Market need closer scrutiny due to side effects. These drugs are the weight loss drug Meridia, the statin drug Crestor, the arthritis drug Bextra, the acne drug Accutane, and the asthma drug Serevent. According to Dr Graham the drugs need to be looked at quite seriously to see if they should remain on the market. Dr Graham is the associate director for science in the FDA's Office of Drug safety.

In August Dr Graham presented his own study one month before Vioxx was removed from the market showing it increased the risk of stroke and heart attack. Graham alleges senior FDA officials tried to suppress his study.