We know there’s a correlation between what you eat and how it helps your body, but what about eats for your eyes? Eye health and loss of vision as we age are of great concern, leading many to seek preventive measures by obtaining essential nutrients through diet and/or supplementation.
Other than Bugs Bunny telling us to eat carrots, we don't always associate nutrition with eye health, but there are two little nutrients our eyes can't do without...lutein and zeaxanthin. Here’s the skinny:
Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants from the carotenoid family. Lutein is a pigment found in dark, green, leafy vegetables, including spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens. Egg yolks also provide a highly bioavailable source of lutein. Zeaxanthin is found in fruits and vegetables with yellow hues, such as corn, peaches, persimmons, and mangoes. The two carotenoids are often lumped together when discussed or studied because they are structurally very similar, found in many of the same foods, and both are the only carotenoids present in the macula region of your eye’s retina. Because lutein and zeaxanthin are not synthesized in the body, you must acquire them either through food or dietary supplements.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are highly concentrated in the macula, which is responsible for central vision and high-resolution visual acuity. They have been found to help prevent age-related macular degeneration by acting as a shield or filter that helps to absorb harmful UVB light and dangerous free-radical molecules, both of which threaten the retinal tissue. Simply put, as antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin sacrifice themselves to protect our eyes from damage caused by the bad guys (free radicals), occurring from daily exposure to sunlight, indoor lighting, and environmental pollutants. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in the macula naturally deplete as people age, so it is essential to maintain proper levels of these eye nutrients every day.
Although there is no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, most recent studies show a health benefit for lutein supplementation at 10 mg or more per day and zeaxanthin supplementation at 2 mg per day.
Note: At this time, the American Optometric Association (AOA) is unaware of any studies that have examined interactions between medications and lutein and zeaxanthin. The AOA also is not aware of any adverse health reports from interactions between medications and lutein and zeaxanthin. However, the AOA recommends consulting with a health care professional before beginning any supplementation regimen.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RD
Nutritionist for Healthy Good
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