Did you know that what you eat may help prevent or delay the progression of sight-stealing diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration? Research shows that carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly good for your ocular health. Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors and act as antioxidants. Consuming a large quantity of these antioxidants through food sources or nutritional supplementation can reduce your risk of losing vision to eye disease. Take a moment to learn why, according to the team at Vista Eye Specialists.
Replenish the Macular Pigment
The macula is the central portion of the retina responsible for clear, detailed vision. The macula is protected by a layer called the macular pigment. A healthy, robust macular pigment is important to visual performance, as it can improve contrast sensitivity and light sensitivity and enable glare recovery. Also, it can lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration as well as other eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of only three carotenoids found in the macular pigment. (The third carotenoid, meso-zeaxanthin, is not found in food sources and must be converted in the body from consuming lutein.) Eating foods or taking supplements helps to boost this protective layer.
Absorb Blue Light Intensity
Another benefit of lutein and zeaxanthin is that by helping build up the macular pigment, they absorb harmful blue wavelengths of light and prevent them from reaching (and damaging) the underlying structures in the retina.
Neutralize Free Radicals
Lutein and zeaxanthin also neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are produced in the body during physical activity and also come from stress, the sun’s UV rays and inflammation. Free radicals can play a role in accelerating the aging process and the development of cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin cancel out the free radicals so they cannot damage the eye’s cells.
Getting Enough of These Antioxidants
Unfortunately, our body doesn’t produce enough of the lutein and zeaxanthin that it needs for optimal macular health. That is why it is important to eat foods rich in the antioxidants or to take nutritional supplements.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in small doses of foods like leafy greens (e.g., spinach), corn, broccoli and eggs. However, you would have to eat a lot of these foods to make a difference in your macular pigment. If you aren’t getting enough of the antioxidants through diet, you may want to try a daily nutritional supplement or a medical food containing lutein and zeaxanthin.
If you have questions about maximizing your ocular health and preventing diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration, Vista Eye Specialists is here to help. Contact our Fredericksburg or Culpeper offices today for more information.