(NaturalHealth365) More than 10 million people in the United States are reported to have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) of the eye. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 years. It occurs when there is a loss of macular pigments (lutein and zeaxanthin) in the eye.
Aging and free radical damage are the two major factors that rapidly decrease the macular pigments leading to AMD. To avoid AMD – we must consume lots of antioxidant rich foods.
If you suffer with AMD – there’s good news! Eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can prevent the loss of macular pigment and could help delay, avert, or modify the course of AMD. Studies show a direct link to the dietary intake and increase in macular pigments because both lutein and zeaxanthin are both entirely of dietary origin. Simply put, the more you eat foods rich in these yellow pigments, the stronger the protection for your eyes.
Goji berries prove to be rich in eye-protective nutrients
The amount of zeaxanthin in dried goji berries is reported to vary from 50 mg to 150 mg per 100 gram of the fruit. In fact, the deeper the color of the goji berries – the greater the percentage of carotenoids. Nearly 75% of the carotenoids in goji berries occur as zeaxanthin and the rest as beta-carotene.
The main function of zeaxanthin is to absorb the blue light and protect the delicate retinal area of the eye. The beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A, which in turn helps to improve vision. Vitamin A is necessary for the care and maintenance of the rods and cone cells in the eye.
Besides these two antioxidants, goji berries are also rich in other nutrients. The key nutrients include polysaccharides, cerebrosides and betasitosterol (plant sterol), and 8 essential amino acids.
Normal western diet provides 1 – 3 mg per day of lutein and zeaxanthin combined, which according to experts are not enough to offer protection against vision loss. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, consuming high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin – about 6 mg per day – reduces the need for cataract surgery. Another epidemiological research, the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study revealed that consuming 6.9 mg per day of lutein and zeaxanthin lowered the need for cataract surgery.
How many goji berries do I need to eat to protect my eyes?
Given the positive correlation between the lutein, zeaxanthin and age related eye conditions, it makes sense to obtain more of these nutrients in your diet. The interesting fact is that you can prevent and even reverse some cases of macular degeneration and vision loss by consuming 15 goji berries – every day. This finding was a result of double-blind randomized research published in the journal, Optometry and Vision Science.
Healthy elderly subjects were asked to consume 15 berries for 3 months. The goji berries were given along with fat (from milk) in order to increase the absorption rate of the fat-soluble carotenoids. What is neat about this study is that the researchers not only measured the plasma zeaxanthin levels, but actually determined the percentage of pigmentation in the macula of the eye.
It was observed that this dose was enough to dramatically increase the concentration of the macular pigment zeaxanthin in healthy subjects.
What do we need to know about goji berries?
Goji berries offer the best in nutrition, they are rich in vitamins, especially B vitamin -riboflavin and vitamin C. Just an ounce provides 20% of the RDA of vitamin C and 120% of the RDA of vitamin A. High in fiber and rich in protein, goji berries are recognized as one of the best superfoods on the planet.
When choosing goji berries – look for intense colored ones for higher percentage of carotenoids over the pale berries. The best way to get enough carotenoids from goji berries is to eat them with nuts and seeds that contain healthy fat. A snack of goji trail mix is a good option and an easy way to get enough zeaxanthin into the diet.
Goji berries are versatile and can be incorporated into any dish with little to no preparations. It can be consumed in salads, breakfast porridge, and even tea preparations. Keep in mind, that if you have food allergies – you need to consult with a healthcare provider before eating goji berries.
And, of course, always buy organic varieties for superior quality and nutrition.
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1. Bucheli P, Vidal K, et.al; Goji berry effects on macular characteristics and plasma antioxidant levels. Optom Vis Sci. 2011 Feb;88(2):257-62.
2. Li XM, Ma YL, Liu XJ.Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-related oxidative stress in aged mice.J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 May 22;111(3):504-11.
3. Cheng CY, Chung WY, Szeto YT, Benzie IF. Fasting plasma zeaxanthin response to Fructus barbarum L. (wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a food-based human supplementation trial. Br J Nutr. 2005 Jan;93(1):123-30.
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