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Eat to keep your eyes healthy

Our eyesight declines as we get older, but eating certain nutrients can help keep your vision laser sharp.
Fading eyesight is often the ‘joke’ inside birthday cards for older relatives, but it’s no joke that ageing can affect our vision and eye health.

Cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are on the increase. The condition, which can lead to blurry vision and blindness, currently affects around 513,000 people in the UK over the age of 50 and experts predict this will rise to 700,000 by 2020.1

What is AMD?

The macula is found in the middle of the retina at the back of the eye. It is responsible for our central vision, and helps us pick out fine details, see colours and read. In AMD, the macula cells start to deteriorate, so you may find it more difficult to focus on a book or newspaper or recognise someone’s face.

AMD can develop quickly, over a few days or weeks, or very gradually. If you start to notice any of the symptoms above, see your GP or an optometrist.

How does zeaxanthin help eye health?

Blue light, also known as high-energy visible or HEV light, causes damage to the macula, increasing the risk of AMD. The bad news is blue light is emitted by the sun, indoor lighting, gadgets like smartphones and computers, and the TV. The good news is antioxidants including zeaxanthin can help.

Zeaxanthin naturally protects plants from the damaging effects of sun exposure by absorbing excess light energy2, so could it do the same for us?

What is zeaxanthin?

Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid, found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, orange peppers, courgettes, as well as egg yolks.3 We store it in the macula along with lutein and meso-zeaxanthin, known as the macular pigment. Together, these antioxidants are thought to block blue light from penetrating and damaging the retina. People with AMD, or who have a high risk of developing the condition, tend to have lower levels of macular pigment. However, one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994 concluded that that those who get more zeaxanthin in their diet are less likely to develop AMD.4

Handpicked content: What can I do with kale?

How can I up my zeaxanthin?

Not a big fan of eating greens? The second Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a major piece of US research, found that supplements containing zeaxanthin and lutein could reduce the risk of AMD progression by 25% in those who don’t get a lot of the antioxidants in their diets.5 Zeaxanthin can even reverse the effects of AMD. A study of those with early signs of AMD found their eyesight improved by an average of 1.5 lines on an eye test chart when they took zeaxanthin supplements every day for a year.6
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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