Dietary carotenoids and their benefit for eye function

Good nutrition is essential to maintain a healthy view. Data collected from several different studies suggest that antioxidants, particularly carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, may provide at least part of the solution at the time of prevent degenerative diseases of the eye , such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellowish pigments […]

By Lamberts Española.

Good nutrition is essential to maintain a healthy view. Data collected from several different studies suggest that antioxidants, particularly carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, may provide at least part of the solution at the time of prevent degenerative diseases of the eye , such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellowish pigments that are selectively deposited in the retina and lens. Both are particularly concentrated in the central part of the retina called “macula lutea”, the yellow color of which is due to the presence of these two carotenoids. There they form the “macular pigment,” a protective layer that absorbs blue light (particularly harmful to photoreceptor cells), thereby reducing the amount that reaches the delicate retinal structures. A lower density of macular pigment is associated with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Apart from these physiological improvements, lutein and zeaxanthin are also able to improve vision through physical actions. One of the mechanisms that have been proposed for this vision improvement could be that the deposition of these two pigments favored the absorption of scattered light both inside and outside the eye.

A new study reinforces this theory and concludes that it seems clear that PM (macular pigment) really influences visual performance, through, at least, some optical mechanisms, highlighting especially its actions as an optical filter. With this, the pigment would absorb direct diffuse shortwave (blue) light, thereby increasing the visual range. In addition, PM improves contrast and blurred vision.
Thus, increasing the consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin is really interesting both to prevent degenerative diseases of the eye, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and to improve visual performance in general, improving contrast and blurred vision.

Reference: The Influence of Dietary Lutein and Zeaxanthin on Visual Performance. J. Stringham, E. Bovier, J. Wong and B. Hammond. Journal of Food Science