Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin May Decrease Risk of Cataracts

The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin may play an even greater role in maintaining eye health than previously thought. A growing body of scientific literature supports the role of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in maintaining eye health, particularly in combating age-related macular degeneration. In addition, a recent Finnish study suggests that these nutrients may also provide benefit for those at risk of cataracts.

The Finnish study indicates that oxidative stress plays an important role in cataractogenesis (the process of cataract formation) and that the dietary intake of antioxidants, specifically the beta-carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, may reduce oxidation and thus decrease the risk of age-related cataracts. The study consists of 1689 elderly Finnish subjects (559 women and 1130 men) aged 61–80 years. One hundred and thirteen cases of incident age-related cataracts were confirmed, of which 108 cases were nuclear cataracts. After adjusting for several factors, including: age, examination year, sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, serum LDL-cholesterol, serum HDL-cholesterol, use of oral corticosteroids, history of diabetes and history of hypertension and antihypertensive medication, the authors found that subjects with the highest blood plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin had 42 and 41 percent lower risks of nuclear cataract when compared with those with the lowest concentrations. The study suggests that high plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a decreased risk of age-related nuclear cataract in the elderly population.

Risk factors
It should be noted that additional risk factors associated with age-related cataracts include: diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, tobacco use and alcohol drinking.

Eating a healthful diet, in combination with regular exercise can also contribute to eye health — combating the formation of both age-related cataracts, and the progression of age-related macular degeneration (another leading cause of blindness in persons over 55).  Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, broccoli, peas, squash, egg yolk, corn, orange peppers, oranges and honeydew melons. Taking a daily supplement with appropriate amounts of antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin can also help your overall vision; and as the Finnish study suggests, help reduce the incidence of cataract formation.

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Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of age-related nuclear cataract among the elderly Finnish population

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