Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Eating healthy helps your eye sight

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that attacks the central part of the retina, called the macula, which controls fine detailed vision. The condition results in the progressive loss of visual sharpness, making it difficult to drive, read and eventually recognize faces. The exact cause of AMD is unclear, but factors such as family genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and a diet low in antioxidants are linked with a greater risk of developing the disease. Research suggests that certain foods can keep your eyes younger as you age. Regular intake of fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables can help prevent AMD. Degenerative eye changes are a normal part of aging, but loss of vision is not. The key is to start making diet changes early.

AMD Facts:

  • AMD affects more than 2 million Canadians over the age of 50
  • Is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older adults
  • Affects more than 25 per cent of people over the age of 70
  • Each year, almost 78,000 Canadians are diagnosed with AMD
  • That number is expected to triple within the next 25 years
  • Currently, more than half of The Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) clients have macular degeneration

Diet and Age-Related Macular-Degeneration

Researchers and eye-care practitioners believe that certain nutrients and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables help lower the risk for AMD. Numerous observational studies have also suggested that nutrition plays an important role in age-related macular degeneration.

Patients who ate a diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, were shown to have a lower risk of this disease. Older individuals, who consumed above-median amounts of beta-carotene, zinc, and vitamins C and E in their diet were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Alliance for Aging Research.

To promote good eye health the Mayo Clinic recommends a diet rich in antioxidant-rich foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture completed a summary of high quality research projects and concluded that people who ate high amounts of foods rich in the antioxidant carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of developing AMD than those who ate few of these foods.

Foods loaded with carotenoids, and those rich in vitamins C and E, may cut the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in older adults.

Fresh Vegetables are Beneficial to Eye Health

What are the ingedients in fruits and vegetables that are beneficial to eye health?

Antioxidants

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients, which play an important role in health maintenance. They neutralize harmful chemicals called "free-radicals" that cause cell damage in the body. Antioxidants have been strongly linked to the prevention of numerous diseases from heart disease to cancer, eye disease and regulation of the immune system.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been identified as an antioxidant nutrient that plays an important role in health maintenance, and possibly, in disease prevention. Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds, keeps gums healthy, resists infection, aids in the absorption of iron and many other vital functions. Vitamin C is necessary to make and maintain collagen, the connective tissue that holds the body and organs in place. It is an important antioxidant, associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Carotenoids

Beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, a large class of natural plant pigments responsible for the bright colours of fruit and vegetables. They exhibit strong antioxidant properties and may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and some types of cancer. http://bjo.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/82/8/907 About 40% of the carotenoids we eat are converted to vitamin A; the rest function as antioxidants. Beta-carotene is especially effective in this regard. Beta-carotene may offer some protection from the risk of age-related macular degeneration and some types of cancer.

Best Sources of Beta-carotene: yellow/orange and dark leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potato, winter squash, peaches, cantaloupe, kale, spinach

Best Sources of lutein and zeaxanthin: orange sweet peppers, broccoli, corn, lettuce (not iceberg), spinach, tangerines, oranges, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, green peas, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, nectarines, grapes, squash, zucchini, kiwi

Vitamin Supplements and Eye Health

Evidence regarding the benefits of nutritional supplements to fight eye disease is conflicting and there is no real agreement among researchers on this subject. However, a consensus has been reached on the importance of a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Information about Age-Related Macular Degeneration:

 
Canadian National Institute for the Blind Spotlight on AMD
AMD Alliance Organization The AMD Alliance International strives to bring knowledge, help and hope to individuals and families around the world affected by AMD.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Canada