Antioxidants from Dark, Leafy Greens Protect Against Cataracts

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WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT POPEYE'S MUSCLES, but a new study suggests at he and other spinach eaters do have healthier eyes. Researchers at Ohio ate University have demonstrated in the laboratory that certain antioxidants found in our diets in dark leafy green vegetables--not only spinach but also kale and collard greens--can help prevent cataracts, at least in the test tube.

Vitamin manufacturers often add the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin to their products, but until now there has been no biochemical evidence to support the claim that these substances help protect the eyes, says study co-author Joshua Bomser, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition. Results from laboratory experiments on human lens cells showed that lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in dark, leafy greens, helped to protect from exposure to ultraviolet light--a leading cause of cataract formation.

Lutein and zeaxanthin were nearly 10 times more powerful than vitamin E, an antioxidant also thought to protect the eyes, in guarding the cells against UV-induced damage.

Nearly 20 million people in the United States suffer from cataracts--a condition where the lens of the eye clouds over. "Along with the many environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors associated with cataracts, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and oxidative stress appear to be the most relevant in this disease," Bomser says. "The dose of UVB radiation we used on the cells is about the same amount a person receives when they get a mild tan."

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