Look out for your eyes: lutein

When was the last time you “looked” at your diet with respect to how it may be helping or hurting your eyes? Most of us don’t think about vision health until it’s too late, and cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are already setting in. However, foods or supplements that supply adequate antioxidants and the carotenoid lutein may help prevent vision problems from arising.

Lutein is an antioxidant stored in the macula of the eyes that protects proteins from oxidation, or free radicals. Other helpful eye nutrients include vitamins C and E, selenium and lycopene.

Researchers now state with confidence that people with low antioxidant intake are more likely to contract AMD, the main cause of central vision loss in the elderly. In a study in the Netherlands, researchers found that the incidence of AMD for patients with both low antioxidant and lutein intake was about twice as high as that in the patients with high antioxidant and lutein intake. This study involved 138 patients from the Ophthalmology Department of the University Hospital in Nijimegen. Before the study, researchers collected data about the patients’ antioxidant intake, lifestyle and family history. Then they looked for any distinct relationships between eye health and antioxidants. The researchers found that there was a clear dose-dependent relationship between AMD and the intake of antioxidants and lutein.

Some of the best food sources of lutein are corn, egg yolks, spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, peas, leeks and collard greens. Lutein is also available as a dietary supplement and is a main ingredient in many natural “vision health” formulas.

Source: Acta Ophthalmol Scand 2002 Aug;80(4):368-71