Nutrition and The Eye- Part 2- Lutein and Zeaxanthin

July 15, 2014

Nutrition and The Eye- Part 2- Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Antioxidants are vital when it comes to aiding our overall immune system. Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow down damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are caused by certain environmental factors, including UV light, hazardous chemicals, and air pollution. Antioxidants include vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium, as well as phytochemicals such as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin and mesozeaxanthin. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of age related diseases such as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), cardiovascular diseases, cancers and infections.

What are carotenoids?

Carotenoids are colorful plant pigments, some of which the body can convert into vitamin A. Some of the most important carotenoids include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin,  lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables have a high amount of vitamin A because of the carotenoids they contain. Carrots, for example, have a good source of beta-carotene. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, and broccoli also contain large amounts of carotenoids, but their intense green pigment, chlorophyll, masks the orange-yellow color.

Some carotenoids, such as lycopene, zeaxanthin, lutein, capsanthin, and canthaxanthin are not converted into vitamin A in the body. However they are powerful in fighting cancer. 

Lutein and zeaxanthin are compounds called xanthophylls which are yellow pigments that occur naturally in many dark green leafy plants and colorful fruits and vegetables. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations of the macula ( central part of the retina) of the human eye, which gives the macula its yellowish color. Recent research has discovered a third xanthophyll in the macula. This third carotenoid is called mesozeaxanthin, which is not found in food sources, it is created in the retina from ingested lutein.

Lutein and zeaxanthin absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, including high energy light rays known as blue light. It is believed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light ( blue light comes from overexposure from use of electronic devices such as smart phones, computers, etc, fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights) from reaching underlying structures in the retina, which in turn reduces the risk of light induced oxidative damage that could lead to AMD.  The AREDS, 10 year study, found that a daily supplement containing high levels of several antioxidants and zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25%.  

What we can do for you?

At Eyedeology, we stress the importance of good nutrition to keep your eyes healthy, functioning optimally and prevention of eye diseases. We offer you advice on nutrition and nutritional supplements best for your eyes along with the best coatings to help reduce your risk from blue light and UV damage.  We now offer genetic testing for those who have AMD and those at risk.  We can determine your risk for AMD and recommend a nutritional plan best for prevention.  Come in and talk to our professionals today.

We believe Eye health is of utmost importance and we want your eyes functioning their best throughout your lifetime!


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Dr. Farrah Sunderji, OD