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Higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with a reduced risk of macular degeneration

At a Glance: New research covering two decades of follow-up research shows that an increased intake of lutein and zeaxanthin lowers the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss in developed countries. This degenerative eye disease causes damage to the macula (central retina) of the eye, impairing central vision.

The results of a recent large study found that participants with the highest average plasma lutein and zeaxanthin levels had a 40% reduced risk of developing advanced AMD compared to those with the lowest average levels. "Lutein and zeaxanthin form macular pigments that may protect against AMD by reducing oxidative stress, absorbing blue light, and stabilizing cell membranes," the authors explain.

Dark green leafy vegetables are the primary dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, but they are also found in some other colorful fruits and vegetables. Average dietary intake in the U.S. is only about 1-3 mg/day, far below the amount most studies indicate as a minimum needed to decrease risk of AMD. "Because other carotenoids may also have a protective role, a public health strategy of increasing the consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids could be most beneficial and is compatible with current dietary guidelines," the authors concluded.

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015;133(12):1415-1424.

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