Carrots are good for eyesight - but opticians aren’t telling you that
Though it is well-established that red and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it seems we’re not being told as much by vision experts. A study has shown that barely 40% of optometrists and just 5% of ophthalmologists give dietary advice to their patients – a regrettable omission, according to the researchers behind the study who insist that AMD is a preventable disease.
We know that over time, changes occur in small retinal blood vessels, potentially leading to degeneration of the macula, a tiny area of the retina important for central vision. Research has already demonstrated the protective role of antioxidants, particularly lutein
, in preventing such deterioration, the effects of which are particularly apparent after the age of 55. Lutein is one of the three carotenoid pigments heavily concentrated in the retina, and is responsible for the macula’s yellow colour. Since the body cannot produce lutein, it must be provided by the diet. Ophthalmologists should therefore be giving out the following advice at eye check appointments:
• Lutein, a pigment found in plants and certain foods, should not be confused with luteinising hormone, a sex hormone produced by the body.
• Like all carotenoids, lutein is better-absorbed with a little fat, as it is fat-soluble.
• Dark green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, and green squash) are the richest sources of lutein.
• If you smoke or drink more than two units of alcohol a week, you are more at risk of lutein deficiency.
• You can choose to take 10-20mg lutein a day over several months, ensuring if possible, that your supplement is from a natural source and is pesticide-free, such as this one.
1. Lene Martin, Targeting modifiable risk factors in age-related macular degeneration in optometric practice in Sweden, The Clinical Optometry journal, Published 19 April 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 77—83
2. Richer S, Stiles W, et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry. 2004 Apr;75(4):216-30.
3. Olmedilla B, Granado F, et al. Lutein, but not alpha-tocopherol, supplementation improves visual function in patients with age-related cataracts: a 2-y double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Nutrition. 2003 Jan;19(1):21-4.
Order the nutrients mentioned in this article