Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) have discovered that orange capsicums are the richest source of the orange pigment zeaxanthin, a carotenoid, that accumulates in the human macula from dietary sources to protect against blue light and, therefore, macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration is responsible for half of all cases of blindness in Australia, affecting one in seven people aged over 50 and one in three over 80.
orange capsicums are “by far and wide the most generous source of zeaxanthin that you’ll find
In an interview with the ABC,1 project leader Professor Tim O’Hare, from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, said zeaxanthin could reduce the development rate of age-related macular degeneration by 25%.
“Your maculas are a very central part of your retina, so we use it to recognise people’s faces and to read and when we’re driving,” Prof O’Hare said.
“People who have macular degeneration, they start to lose their central vision, so they get like a blind spot in the middle. As you can imagine it makes life very difficult.”
Because Zeaxanthin cannot be produced by the body, it’s presence is reliant on diet or supplements, however it is found in very small amounts in most fruit and vegetables.
Yellow sweetcorn, for example, has been considered to be a good dietary source of zeaxanthin, however the amount of regular sweetcorn that would be required to give sufficient dosage is in the range of between four and 11 cobs a day. To counter this, Prof O’Hare and his team have developed a zeaxanthin-biofortified sweetcorn with 10 times the concentration of zeaxanthin, reducing consumption down to less than a single cob as part of a normal meal.
Prof O’Hare said orange capsicums are “by far and wide the most generous source of zeaxanthin that you’ll find”.
Indeed, during their research, the researchers found one orange capsicum that contained zeaxanthin levels equivalent to 30 supplement tablets. The daily recommended dose is 2mg, which amounts to eating between seven and 100 grams of the variety.