Nutrition to Prevent Macular Degeneration?
Can Nutrition Help You Prevent Macular Degeneration?
Many of us fear the effects of aging—sore joints, immobility, cognitive decline, dependency, incontinence, wrinkles and all of the other wonderful things that we get to look forward to as we get older. Though aging is a part of life, in recent years it has taken on a pejorative connotation. Cosmetic companies, plastic surgery clinics, Botox®, Restylane®—billions of dollars are made each year by companies that cater to our collective fears of looking older. For all of the effort that our society puts into fighting the cosmetic effects of aging, how much effort do we as a society expend trying to age healthy?
Little attention especially is paid to maintaining the health of our eyes which is surprising. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for those over the age of fifty in the United States which is why it is often referred to as, ‘age-related macular degeneration.’ It results when the macula, a small area at the back of your eye, starts to atrophy, thin, or in some cases bleed. Patients who suffer from macular degeneration experience blurring of their central vision which entails the inability to see fine details (such as reading).
A very recent study found that docosahexaenoic acid (an essential omega-3 fatty acid) as well as Lutein (a natural carotenoid found in green leafy vegetables) may actually prevent age-related macular degeneration. For the study, they used a lutein dose of 12 mg per day along with 800 mg/d of DHA.
“Lutein and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lutein is a component of macular pigment. DHA is in the retina.”
Lutein and Zeaxanthin, nutrients found in green leafy vegetables, may prevent BOTH cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, according to recent studies. Both lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids that filter harmful blue wavelengths of light and act as antioxidants.
- lutein (12 mg/d)
- DHA (800 mg/d)
“Lutein supplementation increased MPOD (macular pigment optical density) eccentrically. DHA resulted in central increases. These results may be due to changes in lipoproteins. Lutein and DHA may aid in prevention of age-related macular degeneration.”
Previous studies suggest that lutein should be taken with zeaxanthin. Though there currently are no recommended doses for either, most studies suggest benefits from taking 10 mg/d of lutein and 2 mg/d of zeaxanthin.
[box type="important"]Results from this present study also suggest that DHA would also offer additional benefits for preventing age-related macular degeneration while lutein and zeaxanthin protect this as well as against cataracts.[/box]
- Johnson EJ, Chung HY, Caldarella SM, Snodderly DM. The influence of supplemental lutein and docosahexaenoic acid on serum, lipoproteins, and macular pigmentation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1521-9.