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Eye Health Center

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Eat Your Veggies, Keep Your Vision

Squash, Corn, Leafy Greens May Help Curb Age-Related Retina Breakdown
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 14, 2006 -- Women who eat lots of leafy greens, broccoli, squash, corn, and peas may have sharper vision as they age.

Those vegetables contain two nutrients -- lutein and zeaxanthin -- that may lower a healthy woman's risk of developing age-related macular degenerationmacular degeneration (AMD) before age 75, says a new study.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in egg yolks and supplements.

In AMD, the macula -- a small area of the eye's retina -- gradually breaks down, worsening vision.

AMD is America's leading cause of age-related permanent vision loss. Currently, there is no cure and treatments are limited, the study's researchers note.

Suzen Moeller, PhD, and colleagues report the news in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

While the researchers say additional studies are needed to confirm their findings, their study shows no downside to putting vegetables on your plate.

1,700 Women in Study

Moeller's team studied more than 1,700 women aged 50-79 years in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Oregon.

For the study, the women:

  • Completed a survey about their current diet
  • Completed a survey about their diet 15 years earlier
  • Had high-tech photos taken of their eyes to screen for AMD

The women with the highest lutein and zeaxanthin dietary intake consumed, on average, three times more lutein and zeaxanthin than those with the lowest intake of those nutrients.

A total of 327 women -- about 18% of the entire group -- showed signs of intermediate AMD. Another 34 women had advanced AMD.

Overall, lutein and zeaxanthin consumption weren't linked to AMD risk. But there were exceptions.

Healthy women younger than 75 with high lutein and zeaxanthin intake on both food surveys were less likely to have AMD, the study shows.

"Our results could be due to chance," the researchers note.

But vegetables are packed with nutrients, some of which may work together to lower AMD risk in ways that aren't yet understood, write Moeller and colleagues.

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