Nutrition and Macular Degeneration

Nutrition and Macular Degeneration

Posted on Aug.05, 2013, under Educational, Eye Health, Guest Blogger

It is commonly believed that as age increases, visual sensitivity decreases. But what if vision loss as part of the aging process was not inevitable? What if improved nutrition could help slow and even deter vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration? The role of nutrition is garnering more and more attention from the eye care community with regards to how particular carotenoids can be applied in the treatment and prevention of AMD.

There is certainly no shortage of new research on how nutrition can help prevent the development of macular degeneration. Researchers have tested the efficiency of nearly every nutrient; from zinc to beta-carotene to omega-3. In fact, the recent AREDs-2 trial rendered omega-3 ineffective for the prevention of AMD. Additionally, the study found that beta-carotene is associated with poor absorption of other eye healthy nutrients. Yet another important finding of AREDs-2 was that a combination of three carotenoids found in the eye known as lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin can successfully protect the macula and ward off AMD. Dr. John Nolan of the Macular Pigment Research Group in Waterford, Ireland has even hailed these ingredients as being “able to change the course of disease.”

So what are carotenoids, exactly? Carotenoids are phytochemicals commonly found in certain fruits and vegetables. They provide the yellow and orange colour in foods such as bell peppers, corn and squash.

But if these carotenoids are readily available in our food, why is AMD so prevalent? The fact is that the majority of Americans do not consume enough lutein and zeaxanthin rich foods in order to receive the protection that they require. Further, meso-zeaxanthin (the third carotenoid found in the central fovea) is not present in typical Western diets. And though it is theorized that meso-zeaxanthin is manufactured from lutein, some individuals may lack the enzyme to ensure this conversion occurs.

When it comes to AMD, the importance of proper nutrition is immeasurable. In fact, scientists have established that diets high in fat can actually increase one’s risk of developing the blinding disease. Thus, it is very important for those concerned about AMD risk to steer clear of saturated fats found in animal products, high fat cheeses, butters and creams. Plant oils including palm kernel oil and canola oil should also be avoided.

Of course, for those of us with busy schedules and a lack of time on our hands, getting an adequate daily dosage of macular carotenoids and avoiding high fat meals is not always easy. This is precisely why it is imperative to supplement with a triple carotenoid formula. A supplement like MacuHealth contains an ideal ratio of lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin (in its converted form) and makes optimizing macular health a synch.

Talk to your doctor about supplementing with carotenoids. 

-A. Rawson