There are many great things about getting older. There’s the joy of watching your kids become amazing adults, for example. Of course, wisdom and experience rank high on the list too.
And perhaps best of all are the grandkids (or the promise of them).
But one thing I think we can ALL agree is the opposite of great is what happens to our eyesight. Blurry and fading vision can make some of the best years of our life a little less bright.
Trouble reading print on the newspaper, or your smartphone, can be frustrating. Not being able to see the print on a pill bottle properly, on the other hand, could be downright dangerous, or even deadly.
But what if there was a way to turn back the hands of time on your eyesight? A way to recapture the clarity and depth perception of your youth, without surgery or drugs?
It turns out there’s a duo of natural nutrients that could help you do just that.
Goodbye reading glasses hello “younger” eyes!
Nature has provided us with a two nutrient team that not only could slash your risk of age-related vision loss but, incredibly, may even help reverse the loss you already have.
First up is lutein, a vision-friendly nutrient you likely have heard some rumblings about before. Well, it turns out there’s a good reason lutein gets so much attention. It’s fantastic for your eyes! In fact, it may even reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.1,2,3
Lutein—and its kissing cousin zeaxanthin (which I will get to later)—is a carotenoid vitamin. It’s, related to another eye-friendly vitamin you’re likely familiar with, beta carotene.
Lutein is found as a pigment in the retina and macula of your eye, and experts say they think the vitamin acts kind of like an internal pair of sunglasses, filtering harmful blue light and protecting your eyes from sun damage.
According to researchers, carotenoids such as lutein offer protection on a DNA level as well. The vitamins provide an antioxidant shield against damaging free-radicals, as well as help to reverse damage by supporting repairs.4,5 For you and me that could mean preserving our vision, and even improving it.
Studies have shown that taking a lutein supplement increases the protective macular pigment in our eyes, which could reduce your risk of AMD.6 And lutein given to folks who were already suffering with age-related macular degeneration and other eye diseases, led to measurable improvements in their vision.1
Lutein-rich foods include dark leafy greens (cooked) such as kale and spinach, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, basil and parsley. You can also raise your lutein levels using a supplement. We typically recommend looking for a supplement with 10 mg, or more, of lutein.
Studies show that the second half of our duo, zeaxanthin, is also associated with better vision as well. The carotenoid vitamin appears to be particularly effective in situations where dim light (you know, like when you are squinting at the menu in a dark restaurant) or glare could interfere with you seeing clearly, likely because of its ability to help absorb damaging blue light.
Zeaxanthin is found in the lens and macular pigment in your eyes. Low levels of the vitamin are linked to thinner lenses and pigment, which could raise your risk of cataracts.7 And like lutein, higher levels of the antioxidant in the diet are associated with a reduced risk of the sight-stealing disease.
In one study women who were eating the most foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin—such as spinach, kale and broccoli—had a 23 percent lower risk of developing the disease.8 And, according to a study published in the journal Clinical and Epidemiologic Research, zeaxanthin could protect you against both age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.9
You’ll find zeaxanthin in the same foods you find lutein in, with dark leafy greens being your best sources. And if you’d like to try a supplement, we typically recommend 2 mg.
1. “The science behind lutein,” Toxicol Lett. 2004 Apr 15;150(1):57-83
2. “A randomised controlled trial investigating the effect of nutritional supplementation on visual function in normal, and age-related macular disease affected eyes: design and methodology,” Nutr J. 2003; 2: 12
3. “What the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies Mean for You,” NIH National Eye Institute
4. “DNA damage and susceptibility to oxidative damage in lymphocytes: effects of carotenoids in vitro and in vivo,” Br J Nutr. 2004 Jan;91(1):53-61
5. “Carotenoids and DNA damage,” Mutat Res. 2012 May 1;733(1-2):4-13
6. “Macular pigment and risk for age-related macular degeneration in subjects from a Northern European population,” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2001 Feb;42(2):439-46
7. “Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Other Carotenoids as Modifiable Risk Factors for Age-Related Maculopathy and Cataract: The POLA Study,” Clinical and Epidemiologic Research, June 2006, Volume 47, Issue 6
8. “Associations between age-related nuclear cataract and lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and serum in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS), an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative,” Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Mar; 126(3): 354–364
9. “Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Other Carotenoids as Modifiable Risk Factors for Age-Related Maculopathy and Cataract: The POLA Study,” Clinical and Epidemiologic Research, June 2006, Volume 47, Issue 6
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