Yellow and dark leafy vegetables may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
A report in the September issue of Archives of Ophthalmology found that two pigments found in the plants, lutein and zeaxanthin, can filter out the short-wavelength light known to cause deterioration of the area at the back of the retina.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group examined 4,519 individuals aged 60 to 80 using photographs of their retinas and food questionnaires.
Those who had the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are both varieties of carotenoid, were significantly less likely than those with the lowest levels to have advanced AMD. They were also less likely to have the yellow or white deposits on the retina or optic nerve head that are a symptom of AMD.
The authors conclude: "If these cross-sectional results can be confirmed in prospective samples and experimental studies, lutein and zeaxanthin may be considered as useful agents in food or supplement-based interventions designed to reduce the risk of AMD."
Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale are high in carotenoids.