by Valerie Rosenbaum
Posted on Sunday 12th of April 2009
Researchers often look at the benefits of zeaxanthin, lutein and other carotenoids at the same time, rather than individually. This family of pigments is responsible for all of the colors that we see in plants, as well as the colors we see in egg yolks, bird feathers, animals and in people’s eyes. Plants produce these pigments. People and other life forms must get them through their diet.
When it comes to zeaxanthin benefits to human health, researchers have primarily looked at age-related eye diseases, although new studies indicate that the benefits of zeaxanthin, lutein and other carotenoids include a reduced risk of various types of cancer and the “metabolic syndrome”.
Metabolic syndrome is a term that doctors and researchers use to describe a group of health problems that are often seen accompanying each other. They include obesity, insulin resistance or high blood sugar, gout, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If the syndrome is not reversed, it leads to type II diabetes.
Many health problems are associated with type II diabetes, including heart disease and kidney failure. So, you may say that zeaxanthin benefits or may help to prevent a host of illnesses. An eye disease that is the most common cause of blindness among the elderly (age-related macular degeneration or AMD) is just the best known.
The zeaxanthin benefits to the rest of the body are likely due to its antioxidant activity. But, in the eye, it and lutein serve to absorb blue light. They are the primary pigments that are found in the retina, one of the areas of the eye that are essential for vision.
Researchers began to look at the benefits of zeaxanthin and lutein for AMD when it was noted that low blood concentration of the carotenoids was associated with the disease. In other words, people that have AMD often have low blood levels of zeaxanthin, lutein and other carotenoids. Researchers believe that supplementation or increased intake of foods containing the carotenoids reduces the risk of AMD. Basically, what they are telling us is to eat our vegetables.
You can get the zeaxanthin benefits by eating kale, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine (but not ice-burg) lettuce, and broccoli, zucchini, garden peas, Swiss chard, spinach or Brussels sprouts. If you are like many Americans, you don’t see anything on this list that you eat every day. So, the only way for you to get the benefits of zeaxanthin is by taking a supplement.
Even if you do eat a lot of vegetables, there is no way to determine exactly how much of a specific nutrient you are getting when you eat them. Nutrient content varies from plant to plant. There is no doubt that fruits and vegetables are good for your health and you should strive to get 7-9 servings per day.
But, in order to get zeaxanthin benefits, researchers suggest an intake of 10mg per day. A cup of raw spinach contains only 331mcg of the nutrient. Can anyone eat 20 cups of spinach per day? Obviously, the only way to be sure to get the benefits of zeaxanthin is by taking a supplement.
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