There’s an existing nutrient that is incredibly important to your eye health. However, odds are you’ve probably never heard of it.
The nutrient is called zeaxanthin (pronounced Zee-ah-zan-thun). The antioxidant, along with lutein, is found in the back of the eye as a component of the macular pigment. Light enters through the front of the eye, or pupil, and projects onto the retina, a light-sensitive wall of cells at the back of the eye. The retina has millions of photoreceptor cells known as rods and cones, which are responsible for central and peripheral vision.
The macula, located in the center of the retina, is responsible for discerning color and fine detail. This area mostly includes cones. The cones in the fovea are smaller and more densely packed. They are not obscured by a layer of nerve cells or blood vessels. This accounts for the sharp vision associated with them. This is where zeaxanthin is deposited by the body in the highest concentrations.
Zeaxanthin and lutein are antioxidants that protect against light-induced oxidative stress, functioning like “internal sunglasses” to protect the photoreceptors and provide visual performance benefits. In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light.
Increasing zeaxanthin intake helps maintain visual performance over the long term.
Certain benefits to ensuring an optimal supply of zeaxanthin to one’s diet includes:
* Enhanced visual acuity — improved vision in fine detail situations like needlepoint or reading in low light situations.
* Reduced glare recovery time — faster recovery from temporary “blindness” caused by high intensity lighting, such as automobile or stadium lights.
* Improved contrast sensitivity — ability to discern objects from their background, e.g., seeing a white golf ball or baseball clearly against a light blue sky.
* Diminished light sensitivity and visual discomfort — less visual discomfort in sunlight or when exposed to bright light.
* Increased visual processing speed — seeing an object more clearly, enabling improved processing speed and reaction time.
There are more than 600 carotenoids in nature. Fifty are found in the food chain. About 12 are measured in the human bloodstream. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two naturally occurring carotenoids found in the macula. The body does not make zeaxanthin or lutein. Although zeaxanthin is found in foods, like paprika and goji berries, available data indicates the foods containing these nutrients are not abundantly consumed by the average American.
A study published in American Journal of Epidemiology, found higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD destroys central vision and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 55. There is no current cure for AMD and the effects are irreversible.
While there are certain non-modifiable risk factors, there are also risk factors than can be modified. Quitting smoking, incorporating a healthy diet and having a healthy body mass index are ways to reduce the risk. Incorporating a supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin, like EyePromise, can also help protect as well as preserve vision.