(Natural News) Most of us have heard of macular degeneration and know that it relates to vision loss. This condition is so common that it affects over 10 million Americans, and it refers to the deterioration of the central part of the retina, known as the macula. Since the macula focuses central vision, when it deteriorates we start to lose the ability to read, recognize faces and colors, drive and see finer details. Inside the macula is macular pigment (MP), a yellow spot which is made up of two carotenoids: Lutein and zeaxanthin. Macular pigment plays a vital role in maintaining the function of the macula, and is therefore vital to eye health.
Now, a new study published in the journal Nutrients has found that older adults can increase their MP levels by upping their intake of avocados. Avocados contain high levels of lutein, which is selectively taken up by both the macula and the brain. Increasing lutein levels protects eye health and improves cognitive function – both of which are vital areas of concern for people as they get older.
The study was a six-month, randomized, controlled trial, and included 48 healthy men and women who did not smoke, and who had previously had low levels of consumption of lutein-rich foods like avocados, green leafy veggies, broccoli and eggs. People with specific health conditions, or who had recently used lutein supplements or certain chemical medicines, were excluded.
Study participants were asked to consume either avocados, potatoes or chickpeas, and then their lutein levels, macular pigment density (MPD), and cognitive abilities were assessed at zero, three and six months, respectively.
After six months, the serum lutein levels of those consuming the avocados had increased by 25 percent from baseline, while their MPD levels had also increased and there was a notable improvement in regular memory, attention, and spatial working memory, showing a direct improvement in cognition. (Related: Discover what other nutritional miracles are lurking in everyday foods at Nutrients.news)
Though this particular study did not specifically look at eye health, the link between higher lutein levels and improved vision is well established.
A 2013 meta-analysis, published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, examined the health benefits of Hass avocados and noted the following about their impact on eye health:
Lutein and zeaxanthin are selectively taken up into the macula of the eye … Relative intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin decrease with age and the levels are lower in females than males. … Observational studies show that low dietary intake and plasma concentration of lutein may increase age-related eye dysfunction. Research from the Women’s Health Initiative Observation Study found that MUFA [monounsaturated fatty acid] rich diets were protective of age-related eye dysfunction (Chong et al., 2009; Moeller et al., 2008). Avocados may contribute to eye health since they contain a combination of MUFA and lutein/zeaxanthin and help improve carotenoid absorption from other fruits and vegetables (Unlu et al., 2005). Avocados contain 185 μg of lutein/zeaxanthin per one-half fruit, which is expected to be more highly bioavailable than most other fruit and vegetable sources. (Related: Five reasons to eat avocados today and every day.)
Health Line notes that in addition to protecting against macular degeneration, lutein and zeaxanthin have also been linked to “drastically reduced risk of cataracts,” which are a common problem for elderly people.
Improved cognitive function and eye health are not the only reasons to up your avocado intake, either. There are several other reasons to include more avocado in your diet, including:
- They are high in vitamins K, C, E, B5 and B6, as well as folate and potassium (they contain more potassium than bananas).
- Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels;
- They are high in fiber;
- The type of fat in avocados assists with the absorption of nutrients from other foods;
- People who eat a lot of avocados are statistically slimmer and healthier;
- Studies have linked higher avocado consumption to cancer prevention; and
- Best of all, avocados are delicious!
So, go on: Add more delicious non-GMO, organic avocados to your daily diet. Your body will thank you. Follow more news on the power of fruits — yes, avocado is a fruit — at Fruits.news.