In the U.S. and other developed nations, the worst enemy of eyesight is not disease, it is the natural aging process. But even if the advance of years is unstoppable, new research shows that your vision can be protected as you age. Two little-known carotenoids have been found to protect eyesight and combat the effects of aging upon the retina. Lutein, naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, forms a natural filter on the retina, protecting the delicate photoreceptor cells from the damaging effects of blue-wave light and the UV radiation of sunlight. Lutein has also been found to be a natural antioxidant, further protecting the retina from the oxidation that arises from normal body functions as well as exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollutants, radiation, and environmental toxins.
In addition, preliminary research suggests that lutein may protect the cardiovascular system and maintain normal cell differentiation in the tissues of the breast, cervix, colon and skin.
Rejuvenation Science® provides the benefits of lutein from marigold flowers in both Maximum Vitality® multivitamin and Visual Optimizer™, offering one of the most advanced approaches to eye protection available.
Vision is the conversion of light into image signals that the brain can understand. The macula, a tiny area at the center of the retina on the back wall of the eye, is a collection of photoreceptor cells, mostly cone cells, responsible for turning light into color images. This receptor area is protected from light and oxidation by a thin layer of yellow pigment composed of the two carotenoids - zeaxanthin and lutein. As long as this pigment filter is undamaged and dense, it protects the retina cells from the damage of near-to-UV blue light, the most damaging wavelength of light.
Carotenoids are a family of nutrients found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, and green plants. Of the more than 600 carotenoids found in nature, only about 20 are found in human plasma and tissue. Of these, only lutein and zeaxanthin are specifically located in the macula of the retina of the eye. Zeaxanthin and lutein occur naturally in a healthy diet―lutein is found in foods such as broccoli, collard greens, kale, and spinach, zeaxanthin in oranges and corn.
In one study of 40 to 70 year olds, for instance, those who consumed fewer than 3.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day had 5 times the risk for developing one type of cataract and 13 times the risk for developing another type of cataract when compared to those who ate more than 3.5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over age 65. The exact cause of AMD is not yet known, although the protective role of nutrition against the condition is being researched at major universities and other institutions. A 1994 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that a daily intake of 6 mg per day of lutein led to a 43 percent lower risk of developing AMD.
Scientists believe that lutein and zeaxanthin contribute to the density of macular pigment - the component of the eye which typically absorbs and fitters out 40 to 60% of damaging near-ultraviolet blue light (near-UV blue light) which strikes the retina. The denser the pigment, the more the inner retina is protected from light-induced damage. Lutein and zeaxanthin also help limit blue light damage to the inner retina by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and by neutralizing free radicals.
The amount of zeaxanthin and lutein in the diet affects macular pigment density, a contributor to good eyesight. Although there are many contributors to clear vision— some inherited―some of these can be controlled. The density of the macular pigment, the natural protection of the macula and the photoreceptor cells of the retina, are increased by the addition of lutein in the diet.
A Harvard-led study found that eating lutein-rich foods five days per week meant subjects were eight times more likely to have healthy macular pigment density than those who consumed the same foods just once a month. Another study at the University of Florida found that diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin could substantially (82%) protect the macula.
Considerable evidence shows the importance of lutein in reducing changes in the opacity of the eye lens as we age. A study published in the British Medical Journal examined cataract formation among 50,000 women over an eight-year period. The results clearly showed that the consumption of spinach, which is an excellent source of lutein, led to a much lower level of such eye lens changes than did the consumption of other vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash, which contain primarily beta-carotene and very little lutein.
The intake of carotenoids other than beta-carotene, that is, alpha-carotene, lutein and lycopene, has been inversely correlated with the risk of developing cataracts. In other words, the more alpha-carotene, lutein and lycopene consumed, the lower the incidence of cataracts. Protection most likely comes from the scavenging of free radicals. Oxidative/free radical damage to the eye lens is believed to play an important part in the development of cataracts. Lutein prevents peroxidation in the lens, thus limiting damage to the opacity of this tissue. However, there is no evidence that lutein can help to reverse an existing cataract.
As is true of vitamin E, but not of other carotenoids, lutein is found in blood plasma at levels correlated with the amount of cholesterol.
Tests suggest that although lutein is relatively minor as a component of LDL cholesterol in comparison with vitamin E, its antioxidant protective effects may be ten times greater if compared on a one-to-one basis. Some researchers suggest that this may provide another clue to the so-called "French Paradox" in which the consumption of large amounts of saturated fats has not led to elevated rates of heart disease among the French.
One study compared the level of antioxidants and carotenoids in residents of Toulouse, France with that of residents of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Belfast residents are known to have a higher incidence of coronary heart disease than do their French counterparts. Toulouse residents had lutein serum levels which were two times higher than those found in the Belfast residents. Significantly, just as lutein is associated with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) serum levels (HDL is the "good cholesterol" which transports cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver for disposal), so too were the HDL levels higher in Toulouse residents than the Belfast residents.
Several studies have indicated that lutein may be helpful in preventing irregular cell growth in various tissues of the body, such as the skin, breast, cervix and large intestine. A 1999 Harvard epidemiological study indicated that lutein is one of the nutrients which is associated with better breast health. A study published in the American Joumal of Clinical Nutrition found a similar positive association between the consumption of lutein and colon health. Lutein, like lycopene and a number of other carotenoids, would appear to influence the inner regulation of cell growth and repair.
Maintain your healthy eyesight now, because once lost, many functions of the eye cannot be repaired. Rejuvenation Science® offers you Visual Optimizer™ as part of our commitment to developing natural products that empower you to take charge of your health. Use Visual Optimizer™ in conjunction with Maximum Vitality® and regular vision exams for robust vision support.
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Kale 2,190 mg
Collard greens 1,630
Spinach, raw 1,020
Leaf lettuce 180
Green peas 170
Brussels sprouts 130
Green Beans 74
Carrot, raw 26
Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1993:284-95
Do you eat your daily dose of Kale, collard greens or raw spinach? Not many people do.