The Best Protection for Your Eyes as You Age
Eat carrots to have good eyesight. Most of us have heard this by now. It’s true that carotenoids found in vegetables like carrots keep your eyes healthy. The reason: lutein and zeaxanthin. Both are members of the carotenoid family and preliminary studies show that together they may fight off age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — an eye condition where the light sensing cells in the central portion of the retina, known as macula, start to malfunction and overtime cease to work. It is the main cause of blindness in the United States for people over 50 years of age, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Lutein and zeaxanthin may help by rebuilding macular pigment receptors and providing high antioxidant protection. In fact, researchers believe that there is a biological process in the eye that converts lutein into the high quality antioxidant mesozeanthin — a part of the high-antioxidant potential zeaxanthin family. Recently, Oregon Health and Science University researchers decided to examine how diets high and low in these antioxidants effect the carotenoid levels in AMD patients. (Am J Clin Nutr. 85(3):762-9, 2007.)
During the small-scale study, participants were fed a low lutein-low zeaxanthin diet (what amounts to approximately 1.1 milligrams daily) for two weeks followed by a high lutein, high zeaxanthin diet (approximately 11 mg daily) for four weeks. What happened? Concentrations of carotenoids increased greatly in both the AMD and healthy subjects on the diet that had high levels of the antioxidants and the transport of carotenoids was not significantly different between the groups. This finding suggests that abnormalities in the metabolism of lutein and zeaxanthin in those suffering from AMD might be because the uptake of lutein and zeaxanthin from the blood and subsequent transport into the retina is inefficient.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Any vision impairment can seriously affect your quality of life. Don’t take any chances. Load up on lutein and zeaxanthin by eating foods that are high in carotenoids and other antioxidants and take a multi-vitamin that contains clinical doses of lutein and zeaxanthin.
QUICK TIP: Some drugstore brand multi-vitamins boast that they include lutein and zeaxanthin, but look closely at the supplement facts label. Usually they contain doses far below what the clinical studies show to be effective. For lutein and zeaxanthin specifically, any supplement that lists these ingredients in micrograms (mcg) vs. milligrams (mg) most likely has an ineffective dose.
Written exclusively for Stop Aging Now, the authority on anti-aging research, anti-aging nutrition, and anti-aging supplements.