WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- People who consume high levels of the yellow plant pigments lutein and zeaxanthin may have a reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of irreversible blindness among the elderly.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group study, supported by the U.S. government, looked at more than 4,500 people who were between the ages of 60 and 80 when they were enrolled between 1992 and 1998.
Those who consumed the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin -- found in yellow and dark leafy vegetables -- were significantly less likely than those who ate the lowest levels of these nutrients to have advanced AMD, the research team found.
People with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin were also less likely to have large or numerous intermediate drusen, which are yellow or white deposits on the retina or optic nerve that are a sign of AMD.
The study is published in the September issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.
The researchers said lutein and zeaxanthin may affect processes through which light and oxygen damage the eyes.
If further research confirms the findings of this study, "lutein and zeaxanthin may be considered as useful agents in food or supplement-based interventions designed to reduce the risk of AMD," the authors concluded.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about AMD.