Need glasses? Try kale instead
Do carrots really help you see in the dark? What about kiwis or kale? Can eating certain foods improve your eyesight or prevent your eyes degenerating? Perhaps we should all be taking supplements to benefit our vision? Research in both the US and Ireland has shown that supplementing the diet with certain key chemicals can significantly benefit your vision. These can be taken as supplements but they are also found widely in many green leafy plants and green and yellow fruit and vegetables.
The retina is the part of our eye that contains cells sensitive to light. The most delicate area of this tissue - the macula - is protected from harmful blue and UV light by yellowish 'macular pigment'. This acts like sunglasses, blocking the damaging light. It comprises three pigments - lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin.
A research team led by Professor Nolan in Ireland has recently completed a year-long trial investigating the benefits of taking supplements of macular pigments. 100 participants took part in the experiments. The results showed that by taking lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, there was a significant improvement in the protection of the macula, as well as in overall eyesight. There was also some evidence that these chemicals can help to slow down macular degeneration, which is the main cause of sight loss in the UK. However, this is somewhat controversial.
Lutein is a yellow compound found only in plants, which produce it to absorb light. We can get lutein by eating foods like kale and spinach. It is also present in egg yolk. Zeaxanthin, another yellow compound similar to lutein, is found in such foods as corn, yellow bell peppers and saffron. Meso-zeaxanthin is not generally found in food sources, though it can be found in some fish. It is created in the retina from ingested lutein. It can be taken in supplements made with marigold extracts.
As for carrots, it turns out that it's the leafy green bits on the top that contain the key compounds beneficial to eyesight, rather than the vegetable itself. So next time you're told carrots help you see in the dark, save them for the rabbit and chop up some kiwi instead!