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Eat a Carrot To Help Prevent Age Related Macular Degeneration

Some of the things we were told as children were clearly what in our era we used to term as “old folk’s tales”… if you were ever told as a child to eat up your crusts or your hair will go curly you will know what I mean…lovely sayings that had been handed down from Victorian days and earlier.

But as science delves deeper into so many varied areas, surprisingly it seems many of these old tales had at least a basis in fact.

Eating up your carrots to help you see well is a classic example. A recent major study at America’s renowned Harvard University has shown the carrots really can help our eyes and in fact the pigment that gives the vegetable its colour can also slow age-related vision loss.

Age related macular degeneration currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss. It is most common in people aged over 50 (ie us!) and it is estimated that one in every ten people over 65 will have some degree of AMD.

The disease is painless but causes you to lose central vision, usually in both eyes. The sight loss usually happens gradually over time starting with increasing blurriness, meaning reading becomes a little more difficult, colours appear less vibrant and faces can become more difficult to recognize.

Now the new research from Harvard has shown that the carotenoids found in carrots and are responsible for their vibrant colours can actually slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

The study tracked more than 100,000 over 50 year olds for a period of 25 years, so it was no lightweight research. And the final data clearly showed that those who consumed the highest levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing the advanced form of AMD than the people who ate the least.

Evidently lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye . This pigment in the eye protects the macula by interacting with free radicals to prevent cell damage and also by filtering out blue light.

These key essentials to eyesight health are found not only in carrots but in many plants or vegetables which are yellow, orange or red in colour such as sweet potatoes and they are also found in abundance in certain green vegetables such as kale and spinach.

Britain’s professor Ian Grierson, head of ophthalmology at the University of Liverpool, has been a long supporter of lutein consumption for eye health.

He says people should be eating 6 mg of lutein a day while the average consumption is just 2 mg. He says that levels have dropped in recent years and 70 years ago, during the Second World War, the average intake was between 4-5mg a day.

He also mentions that for lutein to be properly absorbed, it needs fat, so a little butter on your vegetables could possibly be an advantage. A study done a decade ago at the Ohio State University in America also found that carotenoids were absorbed better with fat, but they suggested adding avocado oil and fruit instead of butter.

Either way, as we reach 50 and more, it seems it is more important than ever than we include vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin in our diet.

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