A new study that tracked people more than 20 years found that a diet high in carotenoids - found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables (such as carrots, orange peppers, spinach, broccoli) - is linked to lower levels of macular degenaration (an age linked vision ailment). Note that the link is found with real foods and not supplements (the researchers did not look at supplements). From Medical Xpress:
Your parents may have told you, "Eat your carrots, they're good for your eyes," and a new study suggests they were on to something. Pigments called carotenoids—which give red or orange hues to carrots, sweet potatoes and orange peppers, or deep greens to produce like spinach, broccoli and kale—may help ward off the age-linked vision ailment known as macular degeneration, researchers said.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision loss, especially in the elderly. It affects the macula, the center part of the retina, and can lead to declines in sharp central vision and even blindness, experts say. Scientists have already linked a variety of factors to the condition including genetics, smoking and nutrition, said Bernstein, who was not involved in the new study. Prior research has produced mixed findings about links between carotenoids and macular degeneration, the researchers said.
In the new study, Wu's team looked at data from health surveys that tracked people aged 50 and older—more than 63,000 women and almost 39,000 men—from 1984 or 1986 until 2010. Participants were all nurses and other health professionals. Overall, about 2.5 percent of study participants developed either intermediate or advanced forms of the eye condition during the years of the study.
Wu's team found that people who consumed the very highest levels of carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40 percent lower risk of the advanced form of AMD compared to those who ate the very least. "Other carotenoids, including beta cryptoxanthin, alpha carotene and beta carotene, may also play protective roles," Wu added. People who consumed the very highest amount of these carotenoids—found in foods such as carrots and sweet potato—had a 25 to 35 percent lower risk of the advanced form of the illness, the findings showed.
Researchers did not find any link between the carotenoids and the intermediate form of macular degeneration, however. Lutein is found in eggs and dark leafy vegetables including broccoli, kale and spinach, Bernstein said. Zeaxanthin is harder to find in the diet, he said, but you can get it from corn, orange peppers and goji berries. Wu noted that both lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the macula, where they are thought to protect it from damage from oxygen and light.
Bernstein cautioned that the study has some weaknesses. It's based on people's recollections of their diets, he said, and doesn't examine the levels of the carotenoids that actually made it into their bodies and eyes. Still, he praised the research.... However, he said, a diet high in fruits and vegetables is important, especially colorful vegetables. Consume several servings a day, he advised.