Carrots really are good for your eyes

Carrots really do appear to be good for youreyes, according to new US research.

Although not directly being linked to helping you see in the dark, pigments in brightly coloured vegetables, called carotenoids, may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This condition affects the macula in the centre of the retina at the back of the eye. This can gradually reduce a person’s vision and affects around 1 in every 10 over-65s.

Carotenoids give the bright colours to carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale.

Long-term study

The findings come from 20 years of data following more than 63,000 women and almost 39,000 men who worked in healthcare and took part in the US Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

At the start of the research they were aged 50 and over, and had not been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer.

The participants reported the food they ate through questionnaires and additional tests were carried out.

Harvard Medical School researchers found that eating more lutein/zeaxanthin and alpha-carotene carotenoids were linked with people having less of a chance of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration.

The reduction in advanced AMD risk was up to 40% for those eating more carotenoids. The study can’t prove a direct cause-and-effect between eye healthand eating more carrots and other vegetables, but researchers say it supports healthy eating messages like the NHS 5-a-day campaign.

Juan Wu and research colleagues write in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology: “Because other carotenoids may also have a protective role, a public health strategy of increasing the consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids could be most beneficial and is compatible with current dietary guidelines.”

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