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Keep eyes healthy with folic acid, B vitamins, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin

Folic acid and B vitamins lowered the chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), meso-zeaxanthin supplements protected eyesight and lutein protected the eyes of computer users.

AMD—blindness in the center of the field of vision—occurs as retina cells shrink and lose their protective yellow pigment. Doctors in this study explained that damaged small blood vessels increase the chances of AMD and wanted to examine a group with this characteristic.

Over 5,200 women without AMD, but who had pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) or three or more CVD risk factors, took 2.5 mg of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12 per day or a placebo. After two years, those in the B vitamin group had significantly less AMD compared to placebo and less chance of getting AMD during the seven-year study period. Overall compared to placebo, the B vitamin group was 41 percent less likely to have serious AMD and 34 percent less likely to have any AMD.

Researchers in an eye study noted that one of the three protective yellow pigments that filter light, meso-zeaxanthin, is not found in foods. The body normally produces meso-zeaxanthin from lutein, but doctors wanted to see if meso-zeaxanthin supplements could raise pigment levels in the eye. Twenty healthy men and women took a 20 mg combination of meso-zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein per day or a placebo. After four months, those in the supplement group had added more than three times the amount of pigment in the eye compared to placebo.

In a study of eye strain and computer screen light, about 40 male and female regular computer users, aged 22 to 30, took 6 mg of lutein per day, 12 mg of lutein per day or a placebo. After 12 weeks, blood levels of lutein rose 69 percent in the low-dose lutein group and 121 percent in the high-dose lutein group. Both groups were better able to see objects with vague outlines or subtle differences in shading, a measure called contrast sensitivity, with the 12 mg lutein group having the best results.

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