A new study from Ohio State University provides the first laboratory evidence that certain antioxidants found in dark leafy green vegetables can indeed help prevent cataracts. Results from experiments on human lens cells showed that lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in plants such as kale, spinach and collard greens, helped to protect the cells from exposure to ultraviolet light – a leading cause of cataract formation.
The researchers compared the effects of these antioxidants to vitamin E, an antioxidant also thought to reduce the onset of eye diseases. They found that lutein and zeaxanthin were nearly 10 times more powerful than vitamin E in protecting the cells from UV-induced damage.
“Along with the many environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors associated with cataracts, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and oxidative stress appear to be the most relevant in this disease,” said Joshua Bomser, co-author of the study. “Our results are the first to provide physical evidence suggesting that lutein and zeaxanthin decrease damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.”
Adding lutein and zeaxanthin to the cell cultures provided double the protection from UVB damage – these antioxidants reduced signs of damage by 50 to 60%, compared to vitamin E, which reduced the same signs of damage by 25 to 32%. The researchers also found that it took far less lutein and zeaxanthin as vitamin E – about 10 times less – to get this protective effect.
Ohio State University, Dec 7, 2004