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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans over the age of 60. And its incidence is expected to double, degrading the sight of nearly 22 million people by 2050.
Even though most people rarely lose all of their eyesight from AMD, many will meet the definition of “legal blindness.”
The current treatment for intermediate stages of AMD uses special dietary supplements, called AREDS, that contain vitamins C, E, zinc, copper and lutein and zeaxanthin. No known therapy has yet been shown to impact early stages of AMD.
That’s why when it comes to your keeping your vision, prevention is key.
Luckily, a study conducted at the University of California is offering a way to practice that prevention — one that builds and amplifies current strategies by delivering a highly bioavailable form of two antioxidants which are known to reduce the risk of eye diseases related to AMD.
Eating your way to better eye health
Those two powerful antioxidants are known as lutein and zeaxanthin.
And according to the researchers, they not only protect against the free radicals that can damage your eyes, they also filter out harmful blue light. Both of these actions help to protect your eyes as you age.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are like sunscreen for your eyes,” said lead author Xiang Li, a doctoral candidate in the Nutritional Biology Program. “The higher the lutein and zeaxanthin in your retina, the more protection you have.”
Some superfuits are notoriously high in these antioxidant sight savers, so Li turned to an exotic superfruit, the goji berry, which in Chinese medicine is said to have “eye brightening” qualities.
Goji berries are the fruit of two species of shrubby bushes found in northwest China. And dried versions of the berries are a common ingredient in Chinese soups and are popular as herbal tea. They’re even eaten as a snack very similar to raisins.
And sure enough, when she researched the bioactive compounds of the berries, she found that they’re not only rich in both lutein and zeaxanthin, but the form of zeaxanthin the berries offer is incredibly bioavailable.
In other words, your body can put it to work protecting and supporting your eyes very efficiently.
The researchers found that 13 healthy participants aged 45 to 65 who consumed 28 grams (about one ounce, or a handful) of goji berries five times a week for 90 days increased the density of protective pigments in their eyes.
In contrast, 14 study participants who consumed a commercial supplement for eye health over the same period did not show an increase.
More powerful sight savers to take now
So if you want to keep your vision sharp, goji berries should be on your grocery list.
For even more protection for your eyes, you can also:
- Eat more oranges – A 15-year long research study found that people who eat at least one orange a day are far less likely to get macular degeneration.
- Spice it up – Saffron has been found to be a miracle spice that helps prevent or reverse AMD, as long as you get enough of it each day. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive spices.
- Go Mediterranean – European researchers discovered that people who followed a strictly Mediterranean diet were 41 percent less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who didn’t follow the diet.
- Plate up more cruciferous veggies – The sulforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Bok choy has been shown to help regenerate retinal cells that have been under oxidative stress.
- Eat all the superfruits – When it comes to AMD, glaucoma and cataracts, antioxidants are your best friend. Other fruits that pack an antioxidant wallop like goji berries include blueberries, acai berries, aronia berries and pomegranate.
Remember, small steps now could mean better vision for years to come.
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Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Facts & Figures – Bright Focus Foundation