The possibility that the macular carotenoids, lutein (L), and zeaxanthin (Z), could retard age-related changes in the eye and prevent the eye diseases that result from such changes (namely, cataract and macular degeneration) has been carefully studied. A role for the carotenoids very early in life, however, has received far less attention. Nevertheless, an influence on visual development is likely. Retinal L and Z, for instance, would influence the development of the visual system if they 1) altered input during a critical/sensitive period of visual development and/or 2) influenced maturation and/or 3) protected the retina during a period when it was particularly vulnerable. The available evidence indicates that the pigments may play a role in all three of these areas.

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