How to protect your eyesight from irreversible damage with two plant pigments
(NaturalHealth365) Checking social media, texting, using various apps, streaming concerts and movies – for many, these routines have become a part of daily life. Now, natural health experts caution that our daily dose of exposure to “blue light” from phone and computer screens could be causing irreversible damage to precious eyesight.
Consider this: the average American now spends over nine hours a day looking at digital media. Fortunately, research has shown that a pair of natural plant compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin, can actually help filter out harmful light rays and protect against age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.
The leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in people 65 and over, AMD is expected to affect 2.95 million Americans by the year 2020. And, by 2025, the number of people with AMD is predicted to triple – a truly shocking increase!
Your eyesight under attack: “Blue light” raises risk of age-related macular degeneration
Research has shown that the blue light emitted by laptops, LED TVs, E-books, tablets and smart phones can contribute to macular degeneration by damaging the delicate cells of the retina (responsible for detecting light and signaling the brain).
In addition, excessive blue light interferes with normal circadian rhythms – the natural biological cycle of sleep and wakefulness – thereby causing insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Recent studies show that exposure to large amounts of blue light – especially at night – can interfere with production of melatonin, a hormone needed for restful sleep. Note: Researchers are also finding that this indispensable hormone plays an important role in immune system health.
Finally, blue light can cause eye strain, with symptoms of headaches, blurred vision and eye pain.
Carotenoids work like “internal sunglasses,” helping to filter out blue light and protect the retina
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both carotenoids – natural plant pigments responsible for the yellow, orange or reddish coloration of certain fruits and vegetables. In plant life, this pair of carotenoids help to screen out damaging light rays and protect against the effects of excessive sunlight.
The good news for your eyesight? Lutein and zeaxanthin appear to fulfill a similar function in the eyes, with researchers noting that the highest concentrations are found in the retina.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are potent antioxidants that support eye health by scavenging harmful free radicals that can contribute to oxidative stress – which in turn triggers the development of macular degeneration and vision-clouding cataracts.
It’s official: Lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of degenerative eye conditions
In an influential 2015 study published in JAMA Opthalmology and involving over 102,000 people over age 50, researchers gave participants 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily for twelve months.
The team found that participants with the highest dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin reduced their risk of advanced macular degeneration by a dramatic 41 percent. The carotenoids caused measurable improvements in macular pigment density, an indicator of eyesight health that can be used to predict risk of eye disease and visual dysfunction.
The participants were monitored for twenty years, leading researchers to conclude that higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a “long-term reduced risk” of AMD.
Expert consensus: Carotenoids can preserve eyesight and protect against AMD or cataracts
Extensive studies confirm the findings of the 2015 study. The Age-Related Disease Studies, which were recently conducted by the National Eye Institute, clearly demonstrated that lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of both AMD and cataracts.
The American Optometric Association echoes this assertion, reporting that the carotenoids can help maintain good eye health and protect against chronic diseases. Intriguingly, lutein and zeaxanthin also seem to sharpen vision in people who don’t have macular degeneration.
In a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in Journal of Eye and Vision in 2016, researchers found that lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation improved contrast sensitivity and reduced “glare disability”- the sensation of being dazzled by excessively bright lights.
And, in a study published in Optometry, researchers found that lutein and zeaxanthin improved eyesight and slowed the progression of macular degeneration in people who already were experiencing symptoms.
Update: Recent studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin may also protect against diabetes-related retinal damage, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Increase dietary lutein and zeaxanthin with green leafy vegetables
Both lutein and zeaxxanthin are essential micronutrients – meaning they aren’t produced in the body, and must be consumed through diet or supplements. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets to properly protect against macular degeneration.
While bright orange-yellow fruits and vegetables – such as fresh organic corn, squash, peaches, pumpkin and mangoes – are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, the best way to increase dietary intake is with dark leafy green vegetables.
Why do these carotenoid-rich foods not appear yellow, as well? The answer is simple: while the leaves do contain yellow pigments, these are eclipsed by a backdrop of darker hues.
When it comes to lutein content, kale is the undisputed heavyweight champ, with a cup containing a whopping 23.8. Cooked spinach rings in at 20.4 mg per cup – a respectable second. In comparison, a cup of brilliant yellow corn contains a scant 2.2 mg.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are available in supplementary form as tablets and capsules, with most natural healers recommending dosages in the area of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin a day – usually taken with healthy fats to promote absorption.
As always, check with your integrative healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your health regime.
And, finally, as a bonus health tip: Some other natural interventions against blue light-induced visual disorders include keeping computers and smart phones out of sleeping areas, plus the use of specially-designed photochromic lenses and screen filters.
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