Nutrition Research Centre Ireland discovers sunlight and diet as key factors for eye health

A new study reports on sunlight and nutrition as being key contributors to eye health. This research was published by a team led by Dr Marina Green from The Nutrition Research Centre Ireland in Waterford Institute of Technology.

It is the first study of its kind to describe macular pigment and its determinants for the Mexican population. Additionally, this research investigated the impact of environmental and nutritional factors on macular pigment.

The level of macular pigment present in the human eye enhances visual function in a variety of ways. Low levels of macular pigment have been proposed to be a risk factor for Age-related Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of significant vision loss usually found in those over the age of 55. Macular pigment also absorbs harmful blue light, protecting the retina from damage.

Dr Green’s study has discovered that those with high sunlight exposure during the day have significantly higher Macular Pigment. Interestingly, macular pigment and serum concentrations of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly higher in the Mexican study sample compared with an Irish sample, but this difference was not reflected when the dietary analysis was carried out. This finding sheds light on the importance of nutrition and dietary patterns on macular pigment, and consequently, on eye health.

Commenting on the publication of her significant research study by IOVS, one of the most prestigious clinical and laboratory ophthalmic and vision research journals in the world, Dr Green says, “I am very proud to see this long-term study published by IOVS. The new data from a Mexican sample provides evidence of the multifactorial interactions and environmental determinants of macular pigment such as sunlight exposure and dietary patterns. These findings will be essential for future studies for eye health, visual function, and ocular pathology.”

Director of the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NCRI), Professor John Nolan says, “At the NRCI, we are extremely proud of this work and publication by Dr Green. One of the challenges in our field of research is to understand what are the main determinants of the protective macular pigment at the back of the eye. This work highlights further the importance of both environmental and nutritional factors. Specifically, we learn how light exposure is a key determinant of the protective macular pigment, a finding that highlights further the important role this pigment plays for vision and retinal health. We are most grateful to IOSA (Mexico) for their support and partnership on this research, and to Heidelberg Engineering for their collaboration with the measurement of macular pigment in this unique study.”

For further details and to read the newly published study see open access publication online at

For further details, or to arrange an interview please contact: Ann Power 086 306 5588 – Email: