Lutein and zeaxanthin are supplements which have beneficial effects on eye health and also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are yellow pigments related to beta carotene (vitamin A) and are classified as xanthophylls. They reach their highest concentrations in the oval yellow spot on the back of the retina of the eye called the macula. Lutein and zeaxanthin cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed for eye health. They are found in spinach and kale.
Age-related macular degeneration is a serious disease, but treatable with lutein and zeaxanthin also. The most common source of lutein and zeaxanthin in the Philippines is Moringa oleifera, known as the horseradish tree or malunggay. Other leafy vegetables eaten in the Philippines are Malabar spinach (Basella alba), Chinese cabbage (Brasicca rapa), and water spinach (Ipomoea aquatic).
Carotenoids are sensitive to heat treatment such as cooking. Since most greens in the Philippines are cooked in soups, the present study concentrated on the effect of boiling on lutein and zeaxanthin. Malunggay and other leafy and non-leafy vegetables were bought fresh in the local market and dried. Much of the testing was done in reduced light since carotenoids may be damaged by light. To determine loss of carotenoids by heat, the extracts were boiled at 100 degrees C for 15 minutes and retested.
Lutein was the most common carotenoid found in leafy and non-leafy vegetables. It was most abundant in malunggay, with mais (corn) being second. Zeaxanthin was not found in significant amounts in most vegetables, except for being high in mais. The amount of lutein in malunggay was doubled by boiling for 15 minutes, while zeaxanthin was slightly reduced by boiling. Zeaxanthin was reduced by boiling of several leafy and non-leafy vegetables.
CONCLUSION: Malunggay (Moringa olifiera) was found to contain the most lutein, and mais was found to have the most zeaxanthin. Lutein was doubled in malunggay by boiling, while mais had a slight reduction in zeaxanthin after boiling. The current suggested doses of lutein and zeaxanthin are 10 and 2 mg/day. These doses can be obtained in the Philippines by eating malunggay and mais daily.
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