If you consume high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, types of yellow plant pigments, your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are significantly lower, according to an article published in Archives of Ophthalmology (JAMA/Archives), September issue. AMD happens when the area at the back of the retina, the macula, gradually deteriorates, the macula produces the sharpest vision. AMD, if not treated, eventually leaves the patient irreversibly blind; it is more common among elderly white people, say the authors. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group looked at 4,519 people, aged 60-80, from 1992 to 1998. Their retinas were photographed to determine whether they had developed AMD – if they had, the researchers noted down how far their AMD had advanced (there are four stages). The study also included a questionnaire which the participants had to complete. Part of the questionnaire asked them about their nutritional habits – including questions on their consumption of lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamins C and E. Depending on their eating habits, the participants were split into five groups. The researchers found that the people who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin regularly were the least likely to have developed advanced AMD. Their chances of having large/numerous intermediate drusen, yellow or white deposits on the retina or optic nerve (a sign of AMD) were also much lower, compared to people who consumed less lutein and zeaxanthin. The scientists were not able to link any of the other eating habits to AMD risk. The authors wrote "Lutein and zeaxanthin have the capacity to filter short-wavelength light associated both with photochemical damage and the generation of reactive oxygen species that attack cellular lipids, proteins and nuclear material; these carotenoids also have the capacity to reduce the potency of nascent reactive oxygen species. If these cross-sectional results can be confirmed in prospective samples and experimental studies, lutein and zeaxanthin may be considered as useful agents in food or supplement-based interventions designed to reduce the risk of AMD."