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Why Carrots Really Are Good for Your Eyes

New research from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that the more colorful fruits and vegetables we eat, the lower the risk of advanced macular degeneration (AMD), a serious age-related vision problem that can lead to blindness. Researchers gathered data from health surveys that tracked more than 63,000 women and nearly 39,000 men all of whom were nurses or other health professionals aged 50 and older. They found that from the mid-1980s until 2010 about 2.5 percent of the survey respondents developed intermediate or advanced forms of macular degeneration. Compared to those who reported consuming the least amount of produce providing the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, those who consumed the most had a 40 percent lower risk of advanced AMD. These carotenoids are the pigments responsible for the orange color of carrots, sweet potatoes and some peppers as well as the deep greens of broccoli, kale and spinach. The researchers noted that lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the macula, where they are thought to protect against the damaging effects of oxygen and light. While the study showed a link between consumption of fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids and a lower risk of AMD, it didn’t prove cause and effect. The researchers saw no association between carotenoids and the intermediate form of macular degeneration.

 

My take: These new findings add weight to existing evidence that lutein and zeaxanthin provide benefits for your eyes. In addition to lowering the risk of AMD, lutein also helps protect against cataracts, and there is evidence suggesting that both carotenoids may also help prevent atherosclerosis. One of the best lifestyle habits you can adopt to prevent eye disorders and heart disease is to make sure that your diet contains lots of lutein-rich fruits and vegetables. In addition to the produce listed above, you can get zeaxanthin in oranges, corn and honeydew melon. Egg yolks also contain both lutein and zeaxanthin.