This Fruit Can Help Protect Your Vision, New Study Says
The leading cause of vision loss as people get older is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. But, the disease is avoidable—and a recent study in the journal Nutrients suggests the popular superfood goji berries could be a powerful prevention tool.
Researchers asked 13 healthy people aged 45 to 65 to consume about an ounce of dried goji berries five times per week for three months, while 14 other participants consumed a commercial supplement of eye health over the same time period. Comparing the density of protective pigments in their eyes before and after the study timeframe, researchers found beneficial changes only in the goji berry group, while the supplements group showed no improvement.
Most likely, the eye health boost came from two compounds—lutein and zeaxanthin—which are high in the berries and have been known to improve eye diseases related to AMD, according to the study's lead author, Xiang Li, Ph.D.(c), in the nutritional biology program at the University of California, Davis.
"These two compounds are like sunscreen for your eyes," she says. "The higher the amount is in your retina, the more protection you have. That's important for early-stage AMD, but it's also helpful even for those with healthy eyes because it filters out harmful blue light and provides antioxidant protection."
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One of the benefits of dried goji berries, she adds, is that it takes a very small amount to make a difference, and the compounds are also highly bioavailable. Li says that means they're usually absorbed well in the digestive system so the body can use them.
Don't have a reliable source of dried goji berries where you live, or you're simply not fond of the taste? Good news: You can get those same properties from other foods as well, according to research in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Lutein and zeaxanthin usually come paired together in certain foods, and the best sources are egg yolks, corn, orange bell peppers, spinach, zucchini, and several kinds of squash.
No matter what you choose, focusing on protecting your eyes as you age with good nutrition is important, says Li. AMD can affect your central field of vision and reduce your ability to recognize faces and to read. In its early stages, there are usually no symptoms, so thinking about your eye health now can go a long way toward protecting it as you get older.
For more, check out the 6 Best Supplements for Your Eyes, Say Experts.