Carotenoids: Keeping Your Vision Healthy
Photosynthesis and Pigmentation
Carotenoids, unlike many nutrients we worry about when it comes to our health, are pigments, not just a vitamin or a mineral. These pigments are responsible for the deep oranges and yellows that are found in many plants, such as carrots, some peppers, etc.
For the most part, only certain photosynthetic plants (plants that get their energy from sunlight) produce the pigments we call carotenoids. Animals are incapable of synthesizing these pigments ourselves, as the production seems to be part of the photosynthetic process (although carotenoids are also found in certain non-photosynthetic molds and bacteria).
Carotenoids and Vision
When one studies the eye, however, particularly in the fatty tissue of the macula found in the center of the retina, we find a wide array of pigments, including carotenoids. It is believed, then, that carotenoids play a vital role in our vision. Having a goodly number of these pigments in our eyes helps us to see better.
There are more than one type of carotenoid. Scientists have discovered, in fact, some 800 carotenoids, with more waiting to be discovered. This wide variety of carotenoids is found throughout the plant kingdom, its strongest showing among plants displaying deep red, orange and yellow coloration, this coloration coming from the carotenoids.
While it is understood that carotenoids play a role in vision, and these pigments are important for our sight at all times, studies are also being undertaken to discover caretenoids effect on the slowing or even halting of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This is a problem that we all face as we grow older, although it effects some more than others.
Some studies have suggested that having a strong supply of carotenoids in the macula can actually help fight the degeneration of the macular tissue. This can help slow or potentially even halt the progression of AMD, keeping our eyes healthier for a longer period of time. It can keep our vision healthier as we advance into old age and perhaps even save us from blindness.
As of yet there are no known cures for AMD. Studies on the effects of carotenoids as a preventive measure have not been fully completed, however current evidence seems to suggest that carotenoids can help in the fight against AMD. Carotenoids are vital for keeping our eyesight strong and healthy, and could help in us keeping our eyesight for longer in the face of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.