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Leafy greens may hold key to healthy eyes

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DOCTOR Q&A:
Read what doctors say about eye conditions or ask your own questions.
VIDEO
CNN's Linda Ciampa reports on nutrition and eye health.
Windows Media 28K 80K

July 13, 1999
Web posted at: 3:36 p.m. EDT (1936 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa

(CNN) -- For generations mothers have told children carrots are good for their eyes, but some physicians are suggesting moms should have mentioned broccoli and kale.

Though it is far from proven, a growing number of ophthalmologists say nutrition may affect eye health. In particular, research is focusing on two substances called lutein and zeaxanthin, which are abundant in foods such as kale, spinach, fresh parsley and broccoli.

"Lutein and zeaxanthin seem to be most protective in preventing damage to the back of the eye from sunlight and from free radicals and things like this ... all these bad guys which can cause damage to cells and actually kill them eventually," said Dr. Steven Pratt of Scripps Memorial Hospital.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is researching whether taking supplements of vitamin C, E, beta carotene and zinc can help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause in the United States of irreversible blindness in the elderly. So far the findings are inconclusive.

"It could be that foods are more important than specific pills, and that foods containing different vitamins and minerals might have other substances that are protective," said Dr. Johanna Seddon of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.

Research on vision is continuing, but the best advice for the present is to eat a healthy diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, drink alcohol only in moderation, and wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors.



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