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The case for carotenoids

October 9, 2015
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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A recent study by a research team at the Harvard School of Public Health looked for links between carotenoids and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that is one of the most common causes of vision loss.

Carotenoids are pigments which give red or orange hues to carrots and sweet potatoes or the deep greens found in spinach and broccoli. Researchers analyzed data from health surveys that tracked patients aged 50 and older. Findings showed that people who eat high levels of carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin had a reduced risk of AMD.

Joanne (Juan) Wu, a graduate student in nutrition epidemiology and the study’s team leader, noted that lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the macula of the eye, protecting it from damage that light and oxygen may cause.

Dr. Paul Bernstein, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah School of Medicine note the study has some weaknesses including not measuring the levels of carotenoids that actually made it into the subjects’ bodies and eyes.

Bernstein recommends a diet high in fruits and colorful vegetables. He notes that he also recommends supplements to people with intermediate and advances forms of AMD, although they are not proven to help people at risk for the disease.

The study was published in the online edition of JAMA Ophthalmology.

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