Kemin Foods is hoping to build recognition of its FloraGLO brand lutein among the British medical community, by teaching doctors about the role of lutein in preventing blindness among the elderly.
The US firm has sponsored an educational initiative run by charities the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and AMD Alliance to raise awareness of the role of lutein in preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration - currently the leading cause of blindness among those over the age of 50.
In research carried out by the charities, GPs admitted having a poor level of understanding of the condition, ranking their knowledge of it at just four out of 10. Such findings, along with a referral flow chart, information sources for both GP and patient, and a paper on the preventative role of nutrients such as lutein, are included in a new information pack, backed by the company, to be distributed to doctors around the country.
"Studies have shown that those with a diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin have a 43 per cent lower prevalence of AMD. GPs have a vital role to play here in ensuring patients are aware of the need to include lutein in their diet, either through green leafy vegetables or by supplementation with a product containing purified crystalline lutein," said Pedro Vieira, marketing manager for Kemin Foods.
Steve Winyard, chairman of the AMD Alliance, added: "Many of the results revealed large gaps in the GPs' knowledge of AMD - it is crucial that GPs understand the condition in sufficient detail to know when symptoms may indicate AMD and that some forms of AMD can be treated if the patient is urgently referred. At the moment, the knowledge to identify symptoms and to distinguish between the forms of AMD seems very patchy."
Lutein, which cannot be made by the body, helps protect eyes by depositing in the macula where it filters out harmful blue light, stopping it from reaching and damaging the sensitive back tissue of the retina. In the western world the average lutein intake is just 2mg per day, compared to the recommended 6mg daily, claims Kemin.
In the UK, 15.8 per cent of the population is expected to be aged 60-74 by 2015, signalling a future increase in the impact of AMD.
Kemin also sponsors the Lutein Information Bureau, a website offering information on the condition. Last week, the firm said it had received extended GRAS status for use of its lutein in new foods in the US.