Macular degeneration is an eye disease that most often occurs in older age.
It is a disease of the macula, a layer of light-sensing cells on the back wall of your eye, and it can cause vision to worsen over time and could, though not always, lead to permanent total vision loss in adults over 60. Recent findings suggest that eating goji berries could help healthy adults prevent or delay age-related macular degeneration.
Goji berries contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But when it comes to eye health, they are rich in the antioxidant zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidants known as macular pigments already found in high concentrations in the macula. Their primary role in the eye is to protect against blue light and defend against oxidation (which can all lead to age-related damage).
Researchers sought to determine if adding more lutein and zeaxanthin through dietary sources could help to strengthen the macula and ward off this degeneration.
The study looked at 65 healthy adults between 45 and 65 who did not have macular degeneration. One group of participants ate one ounce of goji berries for 90 days; the other group took a supplement containing lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Participants who ate goji berries significantly increased the density of carotenoids in their eyes after only 90 days of eating them, showing higher concentrations of the protective antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in the eyes.
- Surprisingly, the participants who took the supplements did not increase the carotenoid levels in the eyes.
- Participants consuming goji berries had a significant increase in the yellow hue of their skin after just 45 days of consumption, another measure of increased carotenoid activity in the body.
- The supplement group did not increase the yellow hue of their skin.
Diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin from foods like goji berries, kale, pumpkin, salmon, and eggs can help to bolster eye health and possibly help healthy adults ward off age-related macular degeneration, as evidenced by this and other studies.
What is even more interesting is that the supplement group did not have the same benefit, showing that the antioxidants in their whole food form did more to support the body than they did in synthetic supplement form.