You think about the health of your heart, brain, and bones, but what about your eyes? How important is your vision to your overall health?
The human eye detects radiation (or light) in a specific part of the spectrum we refer to as visible light. The normal human eye is capable of detecting an almost countless variety of colors within this spectrum. Our eyes can form images of objects either directly in front of us or as far as many miles away. Our eyes are so sensitive they can respond to a single photon of light. They can do this because of the high concentration of sensory receptors found in the eye. In fact, our eyes contain over 70% of all sensory receptors in the body. But the eye is only collecting and focusing light. It takes our brain to actually translate the messages the eye is perceiving to be able to “see” the world around us.
While the roles lutein and zeaxanthin play in the physiology of the eye are not completely known, the links between lutein and eye health are so strong that several national and regional health organisations have recommended the increase of dietary lutein. Lutein is believed to function in two ways: first as a filter of high-energy blue light, and second as an antioxidant that quenches light-induced free radicals and reactive oxygen species.
Zeaxanthin, a yellow carotenoid, is a modified form of lutein. In the eye, lutein is predominant in the periphery of the macula while the concentration of zeaxanthin is greatest in the very centre. This is where conditions most favour the formation of free radicals, and zeaxanthin is thought to be an even more powerful antioxidant than lutein.