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A diet rich in dark-green leafy vegetables is essential for eye health, and specific nutrients such as lutein that are found in these foods may have particular benefits for people who suffer from eye disorders. A study in the Archives of Ophthalmology suggests that supplementing with lutein may slow vision loss in people who suffer from an eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa.
Retinitis pigmentosa refers to a group of hereditary diseases that affect the retina of the eye. The condition often starts in adolescence and slowly progresses through adulthood leading to partial vision loss or sometimes blindness.
In this study, 225 non-smoking people aged 18 to 60 who had retinitis pigmentosa were randomly assigned to receive 12 mg of lutein or a control tablet (providing no treatment), and all participants received daily vitamin A (as 15,000 IU of retinyl palmitate). During the first year of the study participants were also advised to eat two 3-ounce servings of oily fish per week after a study showed benefit of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplementation for retinitis pigmentosa.
Researchers followed the people in the study for four years, collecting information from annual eye exams and monitoring of blood serum lutein levels. Results showed:
The study authors point out that a daily dietary recommendation for lutein has not been established and that most Americans eat 1 to 2 mg per day. Prior studies, however, have shown that 6 mg per day of lutein supplementation is associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
The long-term safety of taking lutein supplementation has yet to be established. There are also a number of risks of taking high-dose vitamin A, so it is important to check with your doctor before taking dietary supplements in order to learn more about the risks and benefits.