If you are looking to prevent eye conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts, a good way to start is to consume the right diet. You need specific nutrients and foods for healthy eyes, but of special note are lutein and zeaxanthin. What are they and how do they keep your eyes healthy?
Lutein and zaexanthin are carotenoids, pigments that give plants red, orange, and yellow colors. Among their functions is protecting plants from high-energy light rays called blue light. These substances are also highly concentrated in the macula of the eye, giving it a yellowish color. In fact, the macula contains a third form of carotenoid, as stated in recent research. This pigment, called meso-zeaxanthin, is produced in the retina using ingested lutein and is not found in any food source.
The Benefits Of Lutein And Zeaxanthin
The primary benefit of lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin has to do with how they protect the eyes from blue light. They block blue light from reaching the retina which prevents light-induced oxidation that leads to macular degeneration (AMD). They also work with other antioxidants like vitamins C and E and beta-carotene to protect the body from free radicals that damage the cells and cause many diseases.
The benefits of these three carotenoids are well-documented in a number of studies published in reputable journals. The American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology released research associating high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin with low incidences of macular degeneration. Two studies in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found roughly similar results in that increased levels of macular pigments meant lower risks of developing AMD.
Furthermore, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS and AREDS2) formulated a daily antioxidant containing vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin. It was found that this combination reduced the risk of AMD progression by 10 to 25 percent. The said research did not clarify if lutein and zeaxanthin also reduced the risk of cataracts.
Foods Containing Lutein And Zeaxanthin
These two nutrients are abundant in green and yellow vegetables, especially leafy ones. Cooked spinach and cooked kale are considered top sources. They are also found in non-vegetarian sources, particularly egg yolks. However, it would be best to stick to vegetarian items if you have high cholesterol levels.
Just like the rest of the body, the eyes need proper nutrition to stay healthy and free from diseases. Consuming food items rich in lutein and zeaxanthin is a good way to maintain excellent vision.