This is a guest article from Nick Lewis.
It is a generally accepted fact of life that when you get older, your vision gets worse. This is due to a number of factors involved in the ageing process, however, one condition in particular that tends to affect those of a certain age (50+) is that of macular degeneration.
What is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is a tiny yellow spot that sits in the centre of the retina and is responsible for our central field of vision, and so the principle symptom of macular degeneration is impaired central vision. That it is yellow in colour means that it absorbs high energy blue light that can be very damaging to the eye, a property that has earned it the nickname ‘nature’s sunglasses’.
The reason the macula is yellow is because it contains high levels of beta-carotenes, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, which are both also present in colourful plants (including fruit and vegetables, and yes, contribute to the orange colour of carrots, as you might have guessed from the name). These organic compounds act as anti-oxidants and there is evidence to suggest that they go a long way towards protecting our vision from free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules that can damage tissue).
What Else Contains Lutein and Zeaxanthin?
We principally get our lutein and zeaxanthin from our diet. Not only are they present in colourful fruit and vegetables such as carrots and peppers, but they are highly present in leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus and kale. As modern diets are notoriously lacking in fruit and vegetables, this could be resulting in a corresponding decrease in these important carotenes that help protect our vision; the broad recommendation is to make sure you have 5 to 9 portions of fruit and vegetable a day in order to keep up the requisite level of lutein and zeaxanthin: most of us have trouble getting to the standard 5 a day!
As such, for those concerned for their vision, some health professionals advise taking natural carotene supplements, such as VisualEyes from Higher Nature , just as many people now take multi-vitamins for their general health. However, it is important to note that if you are a smoker, there is some evidence that taking beta-carotenes can increase your chance of lung cancer. The evidence is by no means conclusive, but many health professionals would advise against taking lutein supplements if you smoke.
Whether you do it through a good diet or by taking supplements, maintaining good levels of lutein and zeaxanthin should help protect against high energy blue light and dangerous free radicals; both said to be contributing factors in macular degeneration.
Photo by Maschinenraum