Lutein: Helping to Support Your Little One’s Eyes

Lutein: Helping to Support Your Little One’s Eyes

Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Jun 23rd 2020

You may have come across lutein while researching different nutrients your little one needs to grow strong and thrive. So, what exactly is lutein and what role does it play in ensuring the health of your child's eyes?

Lutein is a Vitamin A-like compound in the family of carotenoids found in common fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are plant pigments that provide the bright red, yellow and orange colors to fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are sometimes referred to as phytonutrients or plant chemicals and help plants absorb light energy needed for growth. They also function as antioxidants.

Good sources of lutein include leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, peas, broccoli, corn, and egg yolk.

Lutein functions in the body as an antioxidant and is unique in being highly concentrated in the eye’s retina. Lutein protects the eye from oxidative damage and damage from high-energy light such as blue light or ultraviolet light. Lutein is also the predominant carotenoid in the brain and helps to protect fatty acids like DHA and ARA from oxidation.

Just like all other carotenoids, lutein cannot be made by the body and must come from foods. The amount of lutein in breast milk varies greatly. The lutein content in human milk can vary from 3 to 232 micrograms per liter depending not only on the mother’s diet, but also on her stage of lactation and the area of the world where she lives. The question then becomes: should a child’s formula be supplemented with lutein? The American Academy of Pediatrics has not issued any statements regarding the need for lutein in infant formula. Although lutein is not a required nutrient by federal regulation, it can be added to formulas.

Lutein supplements used in other formulas usually come from marigold flowers and may be extracted by non-organic processes. Nature’s One source of lutein in some Baby’s Only Organic Formulas with DHA & ARA comes from a natural source from organic egg yolks and is called organic egg lecithin. This source is also thought to be better absorbed by the body than other sources such as supplements or fruits and vegetables. Organic egg lecithin is also the source for an organic source of choline, an essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development. For more information on choline, see my blog article on this important and essential nutrient!

I hope this article was helpful and as always, please let me know of any questions you might have!