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Lutein and Zeaxanthin Associated With Reduced Risk of Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to perform many daily functions such as driving and reading. Now a new study indicates that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin - previously linked with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration - are also associated with a major reduction in the risk of cataracts.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and Lapland Central Hospital. It was published online ahead of print on October 18, 2011, in British Journal of Nutrition.

This large study included 1,689 people between the ages of 61 and 80. All of the participants were part of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Of that population, 113 individuals had age-related cataracts, 108 of which were nuclear cataracts. Nuclear cataracts affect the center of the lens.

The researchers adjusted for lifestyle factors—including age, smoking, weight, alcohol consumption and body mass index and determined that the individuals with the highest blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin also had the lowest incidence of cataracts. The highest levels of lutein were associated with a 42% reduction in risk and the highest levels of zeaxanthin were associated with a 41% reduction in risk.

This study adds to the growing body of research showing that these important nutrients are essential for eye health. Lutein and zeathanthin are the only carotenoids able to build macular pigment. If your diet is low in fruits and vegetables, or if you smoke cigarettes and regularly consumer alcohol, you are at higher risk for developing cataracts. Consuming more green vegetables, corn, and egg yolk will increase your intake of lutein and zeaxanthin.

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