The Role of Carotenoids in Healthy Eyesight
Our eyes are an essential component of our being. They don’t only make up the biology of our bodies but without them, life wouldn’t be as we know it. Giving their importance, they’re definitely worth looking after. Right?
As the years pass, we’ll find ourselves in the rooms of optometrists and many of us will end up with prescription daily contact lenses / monthly lenses or glasses. Apart from paying regular visits to our eye doctor, however, what else can we do to keep our vision intact with a sparkle to boot?
The answer: Carotenoids – yup, kuh-RAH-teh-noids
Sometimes referred to as Tetraterpenoids (which is just as tricky to pronounce), Wikipedia refers to Carotenoids as the organic pigments that give many fruits, vegetables, and plants their vibrant colors. But making things look cheery is not their only quality. They are extremely good at acting like antioxidants and also have many other healing properties.
Did you know?
On studying Carotenoids and their benefits, nutritionists came to the following conclusion: Carotenoids are an important component of maintaining healthy eyesight. By including them into your diet, you may be able to protect your eyes from the damaging effects of blue light as well as reduce the onset of macular degeneration later in life.
How Do Carotenoids Work to Keep Eyes Healthy?
It all narrows down to a science.
While our corneas, pupils, and lenses make up the visible parts of our eyes, a lot of the hard work is done in the less exposed parts, like the retina. And then, within the retina, is another hidden area that is extremely fragile but also very important - the macula. The macula has the highest concentration of photoreceptors and is the part of our eyes where our sharpest vision is produced. It’s also responsible for our capability to perceive colors.
These photoreceptor cells are protected by a macular pigment which, in essence, can be divided into three types of dietary Carotenoids. Namely lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin.
These Carotenoids are jam-packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that work together to reduce oxidative stress on the retina. This stress is caused by high-energy blue light, which can contribute to the development of macular degeneration. At the same time, a macular pigment also selectively filters out image-disturbing visible blue light for sharper vision.
Which Foods Contain Eye-Sustaining Carotenoids?
The following foods include a high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin:
- Kale, spinach, and Swiss Chard
- Mustard and Turnip greens
- Green peas
- Summer squash
The following foods include a high concentration of meso-zeaxanthin:
- The skin of trout, sardines, and salmon
- Poultry-fed Mexican eggs
Are Carotenoid Supplements Available?
In short – yes. Visit your nearest pharmacy to see which supplements they have available or ask your doctor for suggestions on the best brands. Our top two Carotenoid supplements include:
- MacuHealth with LMZ3. This dietary supplement contains all three critical carotenoids — lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.
- EyePromise Zeaxanthin + Lutein. This brand has been specifically formulated to increase macular pigment optical density and protect macular photoreceptors using the highest available levels of dietary zeaxanthin
Like with most supplements, you won’t need a prescription to buy any of the above – we do, however, suggest that you chat with your optometrist about the best brand for you (Acuvue, Air Optix, Biofinity, Biomedics, Biotrue, Clariti, Dailies, ProClear, PureVision).
How Will I Know If I Have A Carotenoid Deficiency?
Your optometrist will be able to evaluate the amount of macular pigment in your eyes by performing a quick and non-invasive evaluation referred to as the “macular pigment optical density” (MPOD) test.
The MPOD test will give your eye doctor the information he needs to determine your score. If your score is below average, you will be more vulnerable to vision problems and macular degeneration. If this is the case, your doctor will prescribe a diet that’s rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin and will also possibly suggest the use of Carotenoid supplements.
Your MPOD can be retested once dietary changes and/or the use of Carotenoid supplements have been implemented. This means that regular visits to your optometrist are of the utmost importance – and eat your greens!