Night or low light conditions can make vision difficult, especially in the elderly. Today we know that a help can come from carotenoids, capable of improving the sensitivity to contrasts, the ability to recover in case of glare and the eyesight in general. This emerges from a recent scientific research published in the journal Nutrients by an American team (Richer et al, Nutrients, 2021).
Carotenoids and retina
The macula is the central area of the retina. Its yellowish color is due to the presence of pigments, mainly the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. This pigment protects the health of eyesight since it counteracts the onset of degenerative diseases of the retina, such as age-related macular degeneration. Not only that, the macula pigment absorbs the dangerous blue light, protecting the photoreceptors from possible damage. Finally, the macular pigment supports visual acuity and sensitivity to contrasts. A diet rich in carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, contained for example in green leafy vegetables, orange pepper and green cabbage, has been shown to increase pigment density, although until now no studies have been carried out to evaluate the effective action of carotenoid supplements on vision, especially at night and in potentially dangerous conditions such as driving in low light conditions.
Do carotenoids improve night vision? The experiment
To better understand the role of carotenoids taken orally on vision health, American researchers have developed the study we are talking about today. 33 volunteers were recruited, with an average age of 62 and without visual diseases. The study participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take a supplement containing 14mg of zeaxanthin and 7mg of lutein every day for six months. The second group was used as a control. At the end of the six months, the group that had taken the supplement had an increase in pigment of the macula and this increase was linked to a vision improvement in low light conditions. In particular, the volunteers showed an improvement in the ability to detect contrasts and to recover vision after a glare, which is very important when driving at night. Not only that, the volunteers who had taken the supplement needed lower lighting to complete the vision tests they were subjected to, which proves the greater sensitivity of eyesight to contrasts and improvements in vision.