While extra virgin olive oil is known to contain a high amount of antioxidants, there may be room to add some more: Spanish researchers from the University of Jaén are experimenting with supplementing olive oil with lutein, a substance with antioxidant activity that plays a role in eye health.

Lutein is a carotenoid — a natural occurring pigment found mainly in green leafy vegetables such as collard greens and spinach — and acts as an antioxidant in humans. Lutein along with zeaxanthin accumulate in the macula and retina of the eye.

Studies have shown that lutein may help prevent or reduce the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that is characterized by deterioration of the retina causing impaired vision. The results are not yet clear though, as not all studies have shown such an effect

The researchers have extracted lutein from seaweed and added it to olive oil. University of Jaén researcher and professor Ruperto Bermejo, notes that the average consumption of olive oil per person in Spain is 30 milliliters and that it would be very easy if the antioxidant they have purified to prevent the disease were already included in those 30 milliliters.

According to the research, it took a year and a half to define the method to add lutein without changing the color and taste of the olive oil.

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