Eye health is the subject of mounting research as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), glaucoma and cataracts become the main causes of vision loss/blindness in the U.S. today. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that ARMD has resulted in blindness for over a million people worldwide yet it is unclear how and what triggers the disorder.

ARMD results when light sensing cells in the back of the eye or retina malfunction and tissues are deprived of oxygen and nutrients needed to keep the eye healthy leading to gradual deterioration of vision.

The central part of the retina contains a yellow pigment that serves to protect the eye from sunlight and harmful effects of blue light from computer screens. Reduction of this protective pigment is linked to poor diet and air pollutants like cigarette smoke, vapors from cleaning products and ionizing radiation according to Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, M.D., president of Interbion Foundation for Basic Biomedical Research, Zurich, Switzerland.

Most treatments for both wet and dry forms of ARMD rely on nutritional supplementation of lutein and zeaxantrhin to slow down progression. Dr. Changxian Yi in the Annual New York Academy of Science reports improvement with melatonin, zinc and selenium supplementation. Melatonin is an extremely effective antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the body.

A 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Seddon et al listed vitamins E and C, Carotenoids, zinc, selenium and krill oil along with lutein and zeathanin as protectors of eye health.

Once damage is done to eye tissue, it is hard to repair so food becomes the best medicine for eye health. As far back as 1977 in Science, quercetin in fruits and vegetables was hailed as important for healthy vision. Today, anthocyandins from bilberry and wild blueberries are added to dietary supplements for vision health.

Vision changes can cause alterations in mental status especially since most people are visual learners. Ant thing worse that 20/40 can influence cognitive function according to Chung et all in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology Therapy. Those with cloudy vision of cataracts or the three million with glaucoma or 25 percent of the population over 75 suffering from ARMD can all benefit from a healthy diet of carotenoids found in wi nter squash, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, radicchio and kale.

My favorite way to enjoy carotenoids is Butternut Squash & Chopped Pecans.

Butternut SquashButternut Squash & Chopped Pecans

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
! medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel squash and remove seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Melt butter in skillet. Add onion. Saute until onions are tender. Add Squash cubes. Stir to coat squash with butter and onions. Cover and cook over medium heat until squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in pecans. Top with parsley just before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Calories per serving 122
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrates 14 g
Fat 7 g
Sodium 46 mcg