good vision

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 Eyes
Clearly, 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.
  Supplementation with compounds high in lutein and zeaxanthin is able to prevent and treat macula degeneration and other eye conditions.
The Research
A 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.
  When you regularly take lutein and zeaxanthin into your body, either through whole foods or supplementation, you can expect the following benefits to your vision and eye health:
  • Improved distance vision
  • Enhanced night vision
  • Better close vision
  • Improved color perception
 
Foods High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Corn
  • Egg Yolk
  • Marigold
  In addition to supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin, fish oil supplementation is a smart move for improved eye health. Two fatty acids in fish oils, EPA and DHA, are vital for the health of the retina. As a result of studies such as those mentioned, lutein’s benefits to the health of the eye are well founded. However, it appears that this amazing carotenoid has benefits beyond improving our vision. Studies have indicated that lutein may also:
  • Help prevent atherosclerosis
  • Help balance blood sugar levels
  • Help prevent certain types of cancer
Dosage and Side Effects
If you are supplementing, you should take 5 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin daily. If you take a high amount in excess of 50 mg over the course of a week, you may create an imbalance in the macula. Apart from this imbalance caused by taking too much of these carotenoids, there are no other known side effects of lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation.
Summary
Lutein and zeaxanthin are vital for eye health. They are available in a number of foods and can also be taken as a supplement. For optimal vision, we also recommend taking a fish oil supplement in order to get the fatty acids that will contribute to optimal retinol health.

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