Lutein is a yellow-to-orange pigment or phytochemical found mostly in plants and works as an antioxidant in your body to reduce the damage done by free radicals. Lutein is a carotenoid and is related to vitamin A. Other carotenoids include beta carotene, alpha carotene and zeaxanthin.
The first research to show a positive connection between the carotenoid lutein to heart health came in a 2001 issue of Circulation (vol. 103, pp. 2922- 2927). Now researchers from Sweden have found yet another strong link. Publishing in the February 2006 issue of Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease (doi: 10.1016/numecd.2006.02.2006) the researchers pointed out that people suffering from coronary artery disease are consistently found to have low levels of the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta cryptoxanthin. Conversely, they found that the healthy persons in the control group had significantly higher levels of these carotenoids in their blood. They think it’s connected to immune function because of higher levels of natural killer cells (NK cells) in the people with higher levels of these carotenoids. “This finding suggests a specific link between certain carotenoids, oxidative stress, and immune perturbation imbalance in Cardiovascular Disease,” said lead researcher Caroline Lidebjer from the University Hospital at Linkoping, Sweden.