11 Aug Age Related Macular Degeneration and Nutrition
Before entering into a discussion upon Age Related Macular Degeneration and Nutrition it’s probably worth a short digression to illustrate a key point:
Who here wants to take the risk of putting substandard fuel into their car? Who would like to begin that habit today and continue indefinitely? takers? Anyone? I didn’t think so. We all know that to putting substandard fuel into your car’s engine will cause a breakdown pretty quickly and who needs that? Who needs the cost, the downtime or the hassle?
Yet paradoxically, poor nutrition has exactly the same effect on people’s eye health / general health but it is ignored until the time comes around when those with poor diet will have to deal with the cost, the downtime and the hassle. Unlike substandard fuel put in cars, the problems caused by poor nutrition can often take years to appear but the human body, unlike your car, cannot be traded up for a younger model when such problems arise – at least not at the time of writing at any rate! In a culture where adverts for unhealthy food saturate the media and where pristine packaging neatly hides substandard food quality, healthy eating may even be perceived as boring. Recent research in macular degeneration disorder has affirmed what many know to be the case anyway but routinely ignore: that a healthy diet rich in fruits and other anti-oxidants, ideally consumed in their natural unprocessed form, contributes to healthy eyesight as well as to health generally.
Scientists now believe that they have identified a positive link between good nutrition and maintaining healthy eyes: studies have shown that Age related macular degeneration (AMD) may be slowed by vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables. These foods may even have a role in preventing the progression of category 3 & 4 age related maculopathy and/or vision loss caused by conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin supplements may also be used too of course but no one can deny the long term benefits of fresh nutritious fruit and vegetables in their unprocessed state.
Age Related Macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition that affects people aged 50 or over. In fact it’s the most common cause of vision loss in older adults. As the name implies, macular degeneration is the degeneration of the macula which is the part of the eye needed to provide the sharp, central vision required to see objects clearly. AMD comes in two forms (wet and dry) and occurs when the macula is damaged due to deterioration of retinal cells (dry form) or to leaking blood vessels in, or under, the retina (wet form).
Scientific research has shown that antioxidants such as Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits) and carotenoids (found in carrots, kale, and spinach) are the principal drivers of in slowing AMD and an increasing number of studies link macular health with high lutein content in the macula. Lutein compounds and related zeaxanthin compounds found in high concentrations in the center of the retina contribute to the macular pigment, which protects the eyes from harsh light. It has been demonstrated that taking 20mgm of lutein daily will bring the amount of pigment to normal levels within 120 days, though taking a higher dosage does not significantly affect the levels in the eye.
It is thought that Cataracts may be related to exposure to sunlight and the accompanying oxidation process leading to the clouding of the lens of the eye. But as with AMD, this process appears to be slowed by a diet rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C.
The principal vitamins for prevention of both conditions appear to be vitamin C, folic acid, selenium and zinc. These are typically found in leafy green vegetables, carrots, citrus fruits and melons. Spinach, kale and collard greens provide the lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids) which seem to be particularly beneficial for the macula.
At this juncture, a word of caution:
Over usage of certain of vitamin supplements may pose risks: Care should be exercised regarding three antioxidants: vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin E: Vitamin A in excess of 5000 units has been linked with osteoporosis while Beta-carotene has been associated with lung cancer in smokers. Vitamin E in excess of 400 units has been linked with excessive blood thinning and patients who are on coumadin or aspirin should be particularly cautious about their vitamin E dosage.
So in the final analysis and at the risk of labouring the point, a well balanced nutritious diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables contains all of the antioxidants required without the need to resort to supplements and is risk free. Moreover a diet that is also low in saturated fat, transfats and sugar will help not only your eyes but also your overall health.
Points to Keep in Mind
* Prevention is better than cure: increasing intake of antioxidants will probably not restore vision that is already lost but it may slow the progress of the disease.
* If you are considering either changing your diet to include more foods rich in antioxidants and/or taking vitamin supplements, consult your physician. You may have other health considerations that could be affected by these dietary changes.
* Smoking is thought to be a significant risk factor in eye health. Studies show that quitting smoking can have significant benefits at any age so start the health revolution today and quit now!
* The causes of poor diet are often cultural: companies seeking to profit from processed foods saturate the media with images of smiling people eating junk food to the extent that processed food has become the social norm and healthy food the social exception: there is no profit to be made from saturating the media with images of smiling people eating fruit salads. You may be able to avoid age related macular degeneration or slow its progress by acting today! Nutrition and health are lifelong concerns. Your health is your wealth and since you cannot trade up your body for a newer model you had better ensure you use the right fuel: ignore this maxim at your peril. Don’t wait until you develop an eye problem or other health issue to make changes in your diet. Who need the cost, the downtime or the hassle of potentially preventable vision defects? Any takers?