Researchers Report Lower Levels of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in Eyes of Patients with Macular Degeneration

BACKGROUND: A growing body of research suggests that two antioxidant
carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, may protect against age-related macular
degeneration, the leading cause of nonreversible blindness in the developed
world. Lutein and zeaxanthin may quench damaging free radicals in the eye,
as well as filter out harmful wavelengths of invisible blue light.

RESEARCH: Using a sophisticated new technique, called resonance Raman
spectroscopy, researchers measured concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin
in the eyes of 63 patients with age-related macular degeneration and 138 subjects without the disease. The diagnostic technique uses a laser to
measure the scattering of light in the eye.

RESULTS: Patients with age-related macular degeneration had an average 32
percent lower level of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula, the region of
the eye where these nutrients are typically concentrated, compared with
healthy subjects. However, patients with macular degeneration who regularly
supplement with lutein had normal eye levels of the nutrient.

IMPLICATIONS: This study confirms that low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin
are associated with and may be a factor in the development of age-related
macular degeneration. It also showed that eye levels of lutein can be
increased, and that resonance Raman spectroscopy can accurately measure
antioxidant carotenoids in the eye. (Note: It has been suggested that the
body converts some lutein to zeaxanthin).

Bernstein PS, Zhao DY, Wintch SW, et al, "Resonance Raman measurement of
macular carotenoids in normal subjects and in age-related macular
degeneration patients," Ophthalmology, 2002;109:1780-1787.

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