Two recent studies confirm that lutein and zeaxanthin can have a protective impact on vision health. A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology showed that people who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40% decreased risk for developing advanced age-related macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a progressive disease that deteriorates the macula of the eye—the pigmented area near the center of your retina that controls central vision, which accounts for activities like reading, telling time, etc.
A second study published in Biomed Research International showed that lutein and zeaxanthin may also help improve vision even if you’ve already received a diagnosis.
Researchers based their findings on a decades-long study from 1984-2010 consisting of data collected on 69,443 women and 38,603 men who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were 50 years or older and free of any signs of macular degeneration at the start of the study.
Researchers assessed participants’ intake of lutein and zeaxanthin from data sheets and periodic food questionnaires. The end of the study accounted for 1,361 cases of intermediate age-related macular degeneration and 1,118 cases of advanced age-related macular degeneration. Analysis showed that those with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin had the lowest risk of advanced macular degeneration (by 40%!) compared to those with the lowest intake.
Researchers gave 112 men and women diagnosed with early age-related macular degeneration a daily dose of either..
- lutein only
- lutein and zeaxanthin
- or a placebo
Participants who took either lutein alone or lutein and zeaxanthin together had improved concentrations of lutein in their blood, increased macular pigment optical density (the thicker your macular pigment the lower at risk you are for degeneration), improved contrast sensitivity (able to tell the difference between an object and its background), and improved vision-related quality of life.
Studies also confirm that lutein and zeaxanthin help defend against the development of cataracts, which cloud your eyes’ lens. Australian researchers showed that of 3,271 forty-year-olds, those who ate a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin for two years had a statistically significant lower risk for cataracts.
To increase your intake of lutein and zeaxanthin and enhance the health of your eyes, add the following foods to your meals whenever possible:
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Swiss chard
- Chicory greens
- Spices: paprika, basil, coriander, pepper