What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration? We hear a lot about which foods are good for the heart, which are ‘brain foods’ and which provide the most ideal nutrition in general. However, most of us are not aware of the kind of diet we should consume in order to protect our eyes. Diet and good nutrition play an important part in eye health. The foods we consume can also make a huge difference in the progression of certain eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD affects the macula, which is the oval-shaped area in the centre of the retina, that is important for our central vision i.e. seeing straight ahead of you. It is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in developed countries. Once AMD starts developing it is not possible to reverse the loss of vision that has already occurred. The patient will experience a blurry effect in the middle of the field of vision, which may progress to a dark spot where vision is lost.
The cause of AMD is unknown, but there are some known risk factors that make you more likely to develop AMD as you age. These are age, female gender, family history (light coloured eyes and skin), high blood pressure, smoking, a diet low in antioxidants (like zinc and Vitamin A,C, and E), and excess exposure to the sun without sunglasses.
What can be done to treat Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Eye experts, backed by numerous studies, have discovered that with the adaptation of diet and nutrition, it may be possible to slow the progression of the disease. In people who have been affected in one eye, it is possible to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from occurring in the other eye. The Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) showed that the supplementation of specific micronutrients slowed down the progression of AMD by 25%. The form of AMD you have, and the stage it has progressed to, will indicate whether vitamins and supplements are recommended for you by your healthcare provider.
The latest AREDS recommendations of micronutrients for age-related macular degeneration (called the AREDS 2 Formula) lists lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, zinc oxide and cupric oxide. Lutein and zeaxanthin are a type of micronutrient called beta carotenoids, which are structurally similar to vitamin A. As you might recall from the old saying – these components are found in carrots, and so carrots are good for the eyes. This is a good step, but it takes a lot more than eating carrots to protect your precious vision.
You will find the nutrients mentioned above in orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, dark leafy greens, oily fish, chickpeas, and eggs. It goes without saying that it is also important to avoid certain foods, the same ones that are risky for the heart too, such as margarine, processed foods and food high in sugar, high-fat dairy foods, and other foods containing trans fats aka partially hydrogenated oils or LDL or ‘bad fats’. The same foods that clog up heart arteries and veins can clog up the (even smaller) circulation system around the eyes.
Taking the right nutrients
To assure that you are getting all the nutrients you need in order to slow down the progression of eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) it is advisable to take food supplements designed for this purpose. It’s important to pick one that contains the ingredients that have been recommended by AREDS. This becomes especially important in older age when it becomes even more difficult to ingest the required daily requirements of nutrients.
Food supplements such as Retaron are formulated to help maintain normal vision and optimal eye health. Retaron is available as softgel capsules in a convenient once-a-day formulation containing the antioxidants suggested by the AREDS 2 Formula. In addition to vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, Retaron also contains the antioxidants aronia extract (from chokeberries), and concentrated fish oils providing omega-3-fatty acids.
With age-related macular degeneration, what we do today and how we treat our body will have a direct effect on the progression of the disease. Taking the right food supplements and maintaining a healthy diet will help to protect our vision better as we age.
Moran eye Centre. Carrots & Eye Health: Myth or Fact? | University of Utah Health February 2020.
Christiansen, S. Vitamins and Supplements for Macular Degeneration (verywellhealth.com) August, 2020.
Sight Matters. The Best Foods for Macular Degeneration | SightMatters