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Marigolds Just Might Save Your Sight -- and Your Skin and Heart Too

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There’s a whole new meaning for “flower power.” Imagine the brilliant marigold helping to maintain healthy eyes, skin and arteries. In fact, there’s no need to imagine. It is happening now. People shouldn’t rush out and start eating floral bouquets. But there is an important biochemical quality within this plant that nutritional and medical science is now harnessing after years of research.

A marigold flower contains abundant amounts of a valuable antioxidant compound called lutein (LOO-teen). The lutein, contained within the flower’s petals, is extracted and purified through a patented process and formulated into a natural, crystalline lutein extract ingredient under the name FloraGLO. It then is added to an array of foods and dietary supplements from multivitamins to fruit and vegetable juices.

This lutein ingredient is chemically identical to the lutein found not only in marigolds, but in egg yolks, and spinach, kale and other green leafy vegetables. The problem is that people generally don’t eat nearly enough vegetables or eggs to realize the health benefits of lutein. And those benefits are proving to be extremely important.

Science has shown that lutein is a primary component of the macula, an area within the retina in the human eye. This macular lutein may protect eyes from some of the damaging effects of the sun by filtering blue light.

Healthy lutein levels also help counteract the gradual deterioration of the macula from aging. Such damage to the macula can result in the onset of AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in western populations. Because the human body does not naturally manufacture lutein, people must rely on lutein-rich foods or lutein supplements to maintain optimal levels of lutein in the eye.

A 1994 Harvard University study showed six milligrams of lutein, equal to about one-third cup of cooked spinach, is likely to be a beneficial daily amount in reducing the risk of AMD. If you're not going to get that amount daily, it won't hurt to add a multivitamin that includes lutein, says Robert Abel, M.D., a leading ophthalmologist practicing in Wilmington, Del., and an advisory board member of the Lutein Information Bureau.

More grocery products are also adding lutein as a featured ingredient. “I’m very encouraged to see more foods and beverages fortified with lutein becoming available to people who want nutritious foods that contribute to overall eye health,” said Abel, who also authored the book “The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent and Reverse Common Vision Problems.”

More recent studies such as those published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and a report called the Beaver Dam Eye Study indicate the protective qualities of lutein may also play a role in reducing the risk of cataracts. But while healthy eyes have it, lutein is also found in the skin, brain, cervix, breast and blood serum. Lutein’s antioxidant qualities may help promote healthy skin during sun exposure, whether lutein is consumed in the diet or applied to the skin through a growing number of personal care products containing supplemental FloraGLO Lutein.

And in cardiovascular health, a University of Southern California/UCLA study summarized in the journal “Circulation” showed lutein may be connected with the progression of atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty plaque inside artery walls, causing vessel walls to become thick and hardened. One of the study’s outcomes showed arterial wall thickening was 80 percent higher in those individuals with the lowest blood serum lutein levels versus those with the highest lutein levels.

So whether through vegetables, supplements, fortified foods or skin care products, the health story on lutein is opening to a full bloom. For more information, contact the Lutein Information Bureau at www.luteininfo.com.

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