Lutein: The Vision Enhancer
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over 55. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in orange, yellow, and dark green leafy vegetables. Their job in plants is to absorb light energy overflow in order to prevent the plant from damage. When we consume these foods, carotenoids concentrate in the macula of the eye, which is located at the back of the eye socket. It is lutein which gives the macula its distinctive yellow color. These two compounds play a vital role in preventing macular degeneration and renitis pigmentosa. Both of these are common eye conditions. Researchers have recently discovered that there is a third carotenoid concentrated in the macula of the eye. This compound does not come through the foods we ingest, but is instead made from lutein. It is called meso-zeaxnthin.
Sunlight’s Damaging Effect on the EyesClearly, we need sunlight to see, but some of the ultraviolet light that goes through the pupil to the back of the eye can generate free radicals. These can damage the optic nerve and surrounding tissue. Slowly, this can lead to macular degeneration, and even blindness. Here’s how lutein and zeaxanthin can help to protect your eyes:
- They concentrate in the macula lutea where they act as antioxidants.
- They absorb UV light, decreasing the amount of free radical damage to the eye.
The ResearchA number of recent studies have shown that the addition of lutein and zeaxanthin to the diet help to prevent or slow down macular degeneration:
- Nutrition and Metabolism published the results of a study which found that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin led to an enhanced thickness of the macular pigment of the eye in test subjects.
- A study in The American Journal of Epidemiology found that increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin resulted in lower levels of macular degeneration.
- A study reported on in Visual Science found that people who had greater levels of macular pigmentation in their eyes had a far reduced likelihood of getting macular degeneration.
- Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics reported on a study which found that lutein and zeaxanthin are able to filter out short wavelength light, thereby reducing the incidence of free radical formation. The researchers also noted that the combination of the carotenoids was more effective than the same concentration of any one of them.
- A study published in the journal Optometry involved giving 8 mg per day of zeaxanthin to study participants with early macular degeneration. After 12 months of continued supplementation, the results showed an average improvement of 1.5 lines on an eye chart. Their night driving ability also increased significantly.
- The results of the Age Related Eye Disease Study were published in May 2013. The study had tracked a number of participants who had taken a supplement containing 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin for a period of 5 years. Results showed a reduction of between 10 and 25 percent of macular degeneration progression.
- Improved distance vision
- Enhanced night vision
- Better close vision
- Improved color perception
Foods High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin
- Egg Yolk
- Help prevent atherosclerosis
- Help balance blood sugar levels
- Help prevent certain types of cancer