As diabetics we all know that good nutrition is vitally important to keep your eyes healthy and functioning their best throughout our lifetime. Two very important eye nutrients that may reduce your risk for macular degeneration and have names you may not be familiar with: lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin).
You see, both are compounds called xanthophylls (ZAN-thuh-fills), which are yellow pigments that occur naturally in many plants and vegetables. Xanthophylls belong to a class of organic compounds called carotenoids, which also includes orange and red plant pigments. Though lutein is considered a yellow pigment, in high concentrations it appears orange-red.
Why You Need Zeaxanthin In Your Diet:
Zeaxanthin is a main component of the macular pigment in the retina. It is preferentially deposited over lutein in the center of the macular, the most important area for central vision. It can also be found in the brain and other organs.
The role played by Zeaxanthin, is to sharpen central vision (the clearness with which objects stand out from their surroundings), reduce the effects of glare (blue light) and maintain healthy visual acuity. These important functions all take place in the fovea, located in the center of the macula of the human eye. This is where the body requires a steady supply of the macular pigment zeaxanthin. Individual levels of zeaxanthin in the body are strongly influenced by diet. Zeaxanthin cannot be produced by the human body and must come from dietary intake.
How Much Zeaxanthin Per Day?
Although there is no recommended daily intake, most recent studies show a health benefit for lutein supplementation at 10 mg/day and zeaxanthin supplementation at 2 mg/day, but chatting with your doctor could give you a better indication as to how many milligrams you should be taking daily.
Most Western diets are low in lutein and zeaxanthin, which can be found in spinach, corn, broccoli and eggs. The following table lists foods known to be high in lutein and zeaxanthin. If you are not getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin through diet alone, consider adding supplements to your daily routine.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye and give it its yellow color. The macula is the part of the eye responsible for central sharp vision, which is necessary for driving and reading. Lutein as well as zeaxanthin both have antioxidant properties and thus help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
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