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How Foods Can Stop You From Losing Your Vision

New research indicates that foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can lower your risk of the most common cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Scientists examined the effect lutein and zeaxanthin had on 12 patients (seven of whom suffered from AMD) on diets restricted or high in both of these specific bioflavanoids for up to 14 weeks. Diets higher in lutein and zeaxanthin resulted in improvements in both AMD patients and the control group.

The amount of lutein and zeaxanthin needed to treat AMD (11-12 mg. per day) is about double the amount currently recommended, leading scientists to believe patients can treat this problem by making simple dietary changes.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 3, March 2007: 762-769

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Conventional medicine is finally coming around to safer and more natural options to improve your vision health, namely foods chock full of lutein and zeaxanthin.

The macula is a small area just two millimeters wide, located in the back of the eye, in the middle portion of the retina. The center portion of the macula is referred to as the fovea, and it is responsible for central vision.

For reasons scientists have yet to pinpoint, parts of the retina and the macula become diseased. As AMD progresses, tiny, fragile blood vessels begin to develop in the retina. These vessels often leak blood and fluid that damages the retina even further.

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant pigments in this area. Studies like the one linked above have shown a reduced risk of AMD in subjects with a higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin or higher plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin. People who eat fruits and vegetables rich in these substances can decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration some 43 percent.

Lutein is easy to add to your diet if you eat plenty of spinach and other green, leafy vegetables. Every time you eat a spinach salad or a serving of kale or turnip greens, your body is getting high levels of lutein.

It is important to note that lutein is an oil-soluble nutrient, and if you merely consume the above vegetables without some oil or butter you can't absorb the lutein. So if you are consuming vegetable juice, it would be wise to use some olive or cod liver oil in the juice to maximize your lutein absorption, as well as the absorption of other important nutrients like vitamin K.

Most people don't know that lutein is also present in egg yolks. There is about 0.25 mg in each egg yolk-in a highly absorbable nearly ideal form, especially if you don't cook it. Egg yolks also have zeaxanthin in an equal amount. Zeaxanthin is another carotenoid that is likely to be equally as effective as lutein in preventing macular degeneration.

If you consume four raw egg yolks per day mixed in with your vegetable pulp, you will be getting 1 mg a day of lutein and zeaxanthin. Your absorption of each will be close to 100 percent, which may be the equivalent of consuming half a cup of unjuiced kale or collards.

By the way, modifying your eating habits is one of several things you can do to lower your risk of eye disease naturally and safely. Other methods include:

Take Plenty of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help protect and promote healthy retinal function. DHA is concentrated in the eye's retina and has been found to be particularly useful in preventing macular degeneration. Your best source for this is a high-quality fish or krill oil.

Eat Dark-Colored Berries

The European blueberry, bilberry, is known to prevent and even reverse macular degeneration, and bioflavonoids from other dark-colored berries including blueberries, cranberries and others will also be beneficial. They work by strengthening the capillaries that carry nutrients to eye muscles and nerves.

Avoid Trans Fat

A diet high in trans fat appears to contribute to macular degeneration. Trans fat may interfere with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like french fries, fried chicken and doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers.

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