The leafy greens are rich in the chemical lutein, and when that is combined with zeaxanthin -- a carotenoid -- in the body, it forms an oily, yellow substance on the central part of the retina, known as the macula.
Reinforcing the macula with the oily, yellow substance known as macular pigment has been thought to protect the macula from macular degeneration, which generally arrives with age. Studies from Britain have shown that macular degeneration affects 12 percent of men and 29 percent of women over the age of 75 in that country.
Although studies have shown pigment does indeed provide protection against macular degeneration, Dr. Ian Murray from the Manchester Faculty of Life Sciences wants to determine if eating vegetables rich in macular pigments could have an impact on the disease in a direct way.
Dr. Murray explains that there is a connection between eating vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin and the prevention of macular degeneration, due to higher levels of macular pigment. There is a study in progress that will test this assumption, according to Dr. Murray.
Although results thus far have shown macular pigment as the key to the prevention of the onset of age-related macular degeneration, it is still unknown why only some people are susceptible to macular degeneration while others are not. Known risk factors include smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and a prior family history of the disease.