Vision science expert Billy R. Hammond, PhD and cognitive aging specialist Lisa M. Renzi-Hammond, PhD from the University of Georgia (UGA) teamed up to thoroughly review the research to date and uncover several key insights.
Firstly, women are far more likely than men to experience certain health concerns (specially in the central nervous system organs including the brain and eyes) throughout their lives. Therefore, lifestyle interventions rooted in science that can help alter this trajectory should be celebrated (and prioritized).
"One such lifestyle 'lever' women—and all people—have the power to 'pull' daily involves the intentional consumption of key phytonutrients known as carotenoids," explains mbg's vice president of scientific affairs, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN. "As it turns out, there are over 600 of these phenomenal carotenoid plant bioactives, but get this: Only two are known to be preferentially deposited and concentrated in your macula, that centermost part of your retina that's required for everything from color and central vision, to discerning fine details," Ferira adds.
Which two? Lutein and zeaxanthin. That's how they earned their fame and title as "macular carotenoids." Hammond and Renzi-Hammond's research revealed that these two macular carotenoids (found in colorful fruits and green leafy vegetables, as well as targeted supplements formulated to support eye health and healthspan) are potent antioxidants that represent a strategic nutrition tool to support a long and healthy life.*
Not only do your eyes crave these phytochemicals day in and day out, but so does your brain. That's why consuming these pigmented carotenoids appears to be particularly important for visual health and cognitive function, the study authors explain. “This may be due to the highly selective presence of a fraction of carotenoids, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, in specific tissues of the eye and brain.”
Therefore, if women tailor their lifestyle to include higher volumes of these carotenoids, this will support their health throughout the aging process, contributing to a higher functioning and rewarding life in relation to vision and cognitive function. "Lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in retina and brain and are known to improve the fidelity of the eye’s optics and the efficiency of critical neural pathways," the UGA researchers explain.
More specifically, as their research review elegantly details: These powerhouse "blue-blocker" carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have been clinically shown to help reduce photostress and light sensitivity, while also improving memory, visual processing speed, problem solving, and executive function.*
"Photoprotective and neuroprotective? Yes, please," concludes Ferira on these carotenoid wonders.