Some of the risk factors for sight-stealing diseases like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are out of our control. There is no way we can change our age, family history or race. But research suggests there are things in our control, like diet, that we can alter to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases.
Nutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly helpful for eye health. These are carotenoids, or plant pigments that act as a type of antioxidant for humans. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of only three carotenoids found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye.
Here, Dr. Ernest Kornmehl of Kornmehl Laser Eye Associates explains why you might want to consider consuming more lutein and zeaxanthin.
Restores the Macular Pigment
Consuming lutein and zeaxanthin is very important for replenishing the macular pigment, a protective layer that promotes macular health and function. The macular pigment contains a third carotenoid, called meso-zeaxanthin, which cannot be consumed through food sources or supplementation — it can only be created from ingested lutein.
A robust macular pigment means better contrast sensitivity, light sensitivity and glare recovery. Someone with a robust macular pigment is also less likely to have or develop macular degeneration.
Protects the Eyes From High-Energy Light Waves
Another key function of the macular pigment is to help block out high-energy light waves (such as blue light) so they cannot reach and damage the structures of the retina. By helping boost the macular pigment, lutein and zeaxanthin play a crucial role in helping to filter out this harmful light.
Guards Against Free Radicals
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can destroy cells and contribute to the development of many diseases. They are produced in the body during physical activities and can also come from UV rays, inflammation and stress. Lutein and zeaxanthin help guard the eyes’ cells from the effects of free radicals.
Best Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Our bodies do not naturally produce lutein and zeaxanthin, so we must consume them through food sources or nutritional supplements. The best food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are spinach, corn and broccoli. Lutein and zeaxanthin can also be found in egg yolks.
Most people do not get enough of these antioxidants in their daily diets, so nutritional supplementation is an excellent alternative. Many nutritional companies have added these antioxidants to their multi-vitamin formulas, whereas others have developed eye vitamins made up predominantly of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Dr. Kornmehl would be happy to answer your questions about lutein, zeaxanthin and other eye-friendly nutrients. Contact Kornmehl Laser Eye Associates today.