Good looking: The veggies that really do boost night vision

By Clare Wilson (Image: Paul Blow) During the second world war, British propagandists circulated rumours that RAF pilots were such good night fliers because all the carrots they ate helped them to see in the dark. In reality the British were trying to keep their use of radar secret. Yet it turns out that there is some truth to the idea that diet can affect our eyes. Retinal cells contain three yellow pigments – lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin – which absorb near-ultraviolet light, protecting the eye from its damaging effects and reducing glare. These pigments are concentrated in the centre of the retina that produces the sharp central area of our vision, the macula. “It’s like wearing internal sunglasses,” says Billy Hammond of the University of Georgia in Athens. “It reduces the light intensity and absorbs scatter.” We get these pigments from food, and the richer our diet is in them, the higher the levels in our macula. In theory then, people of any age could boost their eyesight by improving their diet or taking supplements. A large trial of supplements is due to finish in July, but a smaller one, in which 36 people took a pill containing all three pigments every day for six months, has already yielded positive results. “In theory, people of any age could boost their eyesight by improving their diet” The effect was big enough that people should have noticed the difference when coping with the glare of car headlights at night, for instance, says team member John Nolan,
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