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Green is not just fun to wear, it is good for the eyes!

17 Mar Eye Health | Comments
Green is not just fun to wear, it is good for the eyes!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! Although not a legal holiday, it is widely recognized as a celebration of Irish and Irish-American culture and contributions. The most obvious commemoration is the prominent displays of color green – on our clothes, in our food and drink, and even in our rivers.

Carotenoids are a group of over 600 naturally occurring pigments. Two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are abundant in the macula of the eye (the part of the retina responsible for our center vision). Lutein and zeaxanthin act as antioxidants and light-screening compounds against harmful blue and ultraviolet light. Thus, lutein and zeaxanthin protect the health of the retina.

Our bodies cannot synthesize lutein or zeaxanthin, so we must acquire them from our diet. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and green leaf lettuce are great dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin (egg yolks and orange peppers, too). To date, the Institute of Medicine has not set a Recommended Dietary Allowance.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) was a large, randomized trial of over 4200 participants with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) from 2006 to 2012 to determine which combination of dietary supplements would benefit participants the most. The results were as follows:

  • 10% reduction in progression to advanced AMD with lutein and zeaxanthin compared to no lutein and zeaxanthin
  • 18% reduction in progression in subjects who received lutein and zeaxanthin and AREDS1 formula (without beta carotene) compared to those who received AREDS1 with beta carotene
  • 26% reduction in progression in the participants in the lowest quintile of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake

These results re-affirmed data that high dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of AMD.

So celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the traditional corned beef and cabbage, but add some spinach or kale!

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