Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Macular degeneration: Can Lutein help?

Lutein and Zeaxanthin help prevent or slow down the progression of age–related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration or ARMD is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

The high–frequency, high–energy blue rays in the sunlight and in digital devices, such as mobiles, tablets, and computers damage the delicate cells in the retina. When the light-sensitive cells in the central part of the retina (called the macula) are destroyed, the eyesight starts diminishing. This is called macular degeneration.

Lutein is an antioxidant carotenoid, which can help the retinal cells absorb the blue rays safely. It can prevent ARMD or slow down its progress if taken early.

Take 10 mg/day to prevent ARMD. Take 20 mg/day to stop or slow down the deterioration if you already have ARMD. 10 to 20 mg/day of lutein intake for more than 6 months can significantly improve MPOD (macular pigment optical density) and visual acuity in ARMD patients.

My Views

  1. Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum (range of frequencies). Almost all light sources emit blue light in some amount. So our eyes encounter blue lights whenever they see anything. Unlike the other colours in the light spectrum, our eyes cannot filter out blue lights easily. While moderate exposure to blue lights is fine, overexposure to them can harm the eyes in the long term.
  2. These days, we indulge in excessive use of digital gadgets such as mobile phones, computers and television screens. The lights from these screens add to the sunlight we see. As a result, our overall exposure to blue lights have increased significantly in the last 20 to 40 years.
  3. When the light rays strike the cells in our eye retina, they release their energy into the cells. That energy release is sensed by the cells, generating signals for the optic nerve to carry to the brain for deciphering the image. Since blue rays are the highest frequency visible rays, they release the highest amount of energy amongst all the colours in the visible light. This increases the chances of cell damage, especially as one starts ageing.
  4. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the antioxidants that help the retinal cells absorb this energy without much of damage.
  5. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only antioxidants that can enter retinal cell region amongst many antioxidants that are present in our blood.
  6. Our bodies cannot make lutein and zeaxanthin. So they have to be obtained from foods or supplements.
  7. Scientists at Harvard University found 6 mg a day of lutein intake reduced the risk for macular degeneration by 43%.
  8. Most people consume only 1-2 mg of lutein a day from foods. It is practically impossible to get enough lutein and zeaxanthin predictably on a daily basis through foods. So supplementation is a better strategy for prevention of ARMD.

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First Published on: 21st November 2021
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Last Updated on: 30th April 2023


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