It is certainly no misnomer that eating carrots helps protect your eyesight, but what else can you do to support your eye health?
The focus on low-fat and fat-free diets in recent years will have set many people up for poor eye health in later life. This is because protective compounds like lutein and other carotenoids require fat in order to be absorbed. In fact, good quality lutein supplements use an oil suspension to increase the nutrient’s bioavailability and therefore offer better protection of eye health throughout life.
Unfortunately, our bodies cannot create lutein, and typical dietary lutein intake simply isn’t enough to address existing eye health issues. When ingested in meaningful amounts, lutein offers powerful antioxidant protection for the eyes, thus helping to resist, and sometimes even reverse, the damage associated with macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye health issues.
Where do we get lutein?
Lutein is usually found at high levels in vegetables such as carrots, kale, collards, and spinach, as well as corn, peppers, kiwi fruit, and squash. However, marigold flowers are perhaps the richest source of lutein yet to be discovered. These flowers are actually edible, but few people are likely to have encountered them in a standard salad or smoothie.
Marigold flowers contain around 20 times as much lutein as spinach, and a summertime salad with these flowers would be ideal as this compound filters out harmful blue light to help protect the eyes from sun-induced ultraviolet radiation damage. Decreased UV damage then lessens our risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and retinal damage. In addition, taking lutein supplements has been found in some studies to actually reverse age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Reversing age-related macular degeneration
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people taking 10 mg of lutein a day for 12 months had improvements in symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, including visual glare recovery, near vision, and contrast sensitivity . Other research has found that 15 mg of lutein per day derived from marigold flowers showed a five-fold increase in blood levels, and that it is best to take these supplements alongside a high-fat meal .
Not only does lutein offer direct benefits for eye health, it also acts as an antioxidant to protect the tissues in the lungs and arteries, helping to support healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular function. As poor cardiovascular health is associated with macular degeneration and cataracts, lutein is the pigment that just keeps giving!
Natural Factors offers individual lutein supplements as well as a range of carotenoid and antioxidant complexes to support eye health and to help maintain general health. BetaCareAll®, for example, is a comprehensive one-a-day mixed carotenoid complex providing 25,000 IU of beta-carotene plus alpha- and gamma-carotene alongside meaningful amounts of lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin to help reduce the risk of AMD .
Natural Factors Astaxanthin Plus is another great option for supporting eye health throughout life. This phenomenal antioxidant helps support cardiovascular and immune system health, helps protect the skin from sun damage, and supports eye health and digestion. Astaxanthin scavenges free radicals 800 times more effectively than CoQ10 and offers 6,000 times more antioxidant protection than vitamin C . It is not surprising, then, that this colourful compound is known as the “King of the Carotenoids”!
Important eye-friendly carotenoids are also found in Natural Factors BioCgel™, an easily absorbed, stomach-friendly vitamin C complex complete with citrus bioflavonoids and the BerryRich® berry blend concentrate. Blueberry consumption in particular has been linked time and again to a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration and other eye issues, largely because of the antioxidant protection provided by the anthocyanins in blueberries .
If nutrition research has told us anything, it is the way we eat while we are younger that can have profound consequences for our health later in life. However, it is never too late to start protecting your eyesight, and as lutein may help reverse macular damage it would be rather short sighted not to consider adding a daily lutein supplement to your natural health regimen.
To learn more about your eye health, visit a Doctor of Optometry.
References: Richer, S., et al. (2004). Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degermation: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplement Trial). Optometry, 75, 216-30.
 Olmedilla, B., et al. (2002). A European multicentre, placebo-controlled supplementation study with alpha-tocopherol, carotene-rich palm oil, lutein or lycopene: analysis of serum responses. Clin Sci (Lond), 102, 447-56.
Wu, J., et al. (2002). Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up. JAMA Ophthalmol, 133(12):1415-24.
 Nishida, Y., et al. (2007). Quenching activities of common hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants against singlet oxygen using chemiluminescence detection system. Carotenoid Science, 11(6), 16–20
 Huang, W., et al. (2018). Protective Effects of Blueberry Anthocyanins against H2O2-Induced Oxidative Injuries in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells. J Agric Food Chem, 66(7), 1638-1648.