Davis, CA—Regularly eating a small serving of dried goji berries may help protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in seniors—it affects more than 11 million adults in the United States, and 170 million adults globally.

That finding comes from a small, randomized trial conducted at the University of California, Davis. The study was published inNutrients.

"AMD affects your central field of vision and can affect your ability to read or recognize faces," said Glenn Yiu, a co-author of the study and an Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences.

The study consisted of 27 health participants aged 45 to 65. 13 of them consumed 28g (approximately 1oz, or a handful) of goji berries five times a week for 90 days increased the density of the protective pigments lutein and zeaxanthin in their eyes. The other 14 participants consumed a commercial supplement for eye health over the same period, and did not show an increase.

"Lutein and zeaxanthin are like sunscreen for your eyes," said lead author Xiang Li, a doctoral candidate in the Nutritional Biology Program. "The higher the lutein and zeaxanthin in your retina, the more protection you have. Our study found that even in normal healthy eyes, these optical pigments can be increased with a small daily serving of goji berries.”

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While the results are promising, the researchers note that the study was small, and more research is needed.

"Our study shows goji berries, which are a natural food source, can improve macular pigments of healthy participants beyond taking high-dose nutritional supplements," said Yiu. "The next step for our research will be to examine goji berries in patients with early-stage AMD."