Increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of cataracts by about 40%, suggests new research from Finland.
The study adds to an ever-growing body of science supporting the role of lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, with the majority supporting their role against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 55 years of age in the Western world, according to the AMD Alliance International.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and Lapland Central Hospital base their conclusions of data from 1,689 elderly people aged between 61 and 80 participating in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.The data revealed 113 cases of incident age-related cataracts, of which 108 were nuclear cataracts, said the researchers.
The researchers note that both compounds appeared to provide similar levels of protection from cataracts, an observation they said challenges the hypothesis that zeaxanthin is more important for lens health.
"The ratio of zeaxanthin:lutein is much higher in the lens than the plasma, suggesting that the lens of the eye mainly accumulates zeaxanthin," they explained. "Both lutein and zeaxanthin protect liposomal membranes from light induced oxidative stress".
"Zeaxanthin appears to be a more effective protector against UV light exposure, because lutein and zeaxanthin may be orientated differently in biological membranes."
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Study used: "Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of age-related nuclear cataract among the elderly Finnish population"