The retina and its center, the macula, is the most metabolically active tissue in the body. It has the highest demand for oxygen and gets nearly constant exposure to light. This creates high vulnerability to oxidative damage from light. Fortunately, our eyes evolved to be highly responsive to nutritional factors that are protective against light damage. Certain anti-oxidants have been shown to protect the macula and retina.
The most important of these protective factors for the eye are carotenoids, the organic pigments derived from plant sources, which counteract the ravages of free radicals. Of the hundreds of carotenoids found in nature, just two end up in the retina: lutein and zeaxanthin—isomers of each other—are both abundant in leafy greens, such as spinach and kale. These carotenoids make up the macular pigments, which give the macula its characteristic yellow color.
When present in sufficient concentration, these macular pigments fill many ocular needs. The pigments derived from lutein and zeaxanthin absorb harmful light rays in the short -wave length spectrum that damage the macula.
Some studies show that—all things being equal—people with higher macular pigment can see about 20 to 30 percent farther than people with lower macular pigment, The pigments help absorb scattered light and sharpen the image one sees.
Major Studies: The original AREDS study in 2001 showed that taking Vitamins A,C,E and zinc with beta-carotene reduced the risk of progression of macular degeneration by 25%.