What can nutrition do to help protect against AMD?
Improving your diet may play an important role in vision health. A small but growing body of research seems to suggest that diet may help prevent onset of AMD and reduce blurring and slow deterioration from the condition.
Several research studies on AMD are focusing on the role of carotenoids. Two of these carotenoids, lutein (LOO–TEEN) and zeaxanthin (ZEEAH–ZAN–THIN), are yellow pigments that accumulate in the macula region of the retina and provide its characteristic healthy color.
|Vegetable (100 grams)+|| |
|Raw carrot|| |
|Brussels sprouts|| |
|Raw spinach|| |
|Green peas|| |
|Green beans|| |
|Leaf lettuce|| |
|Collard greens|| |
|Egg Yolk (1 large egg)|| |
|+ About 1/2 cup serving. * Amounts in micrograms.|
|Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1993: 284–295|
Researchers believe these carotenoids act in the body as antioxidants to help prevent cell damage and the onset of health problems. Because of their yellow pigment, some scientists believe that lutein and zeaxanthin may protect against AMD by helping to block harmful blue light from reaching and damaging the sensitive back tissue of the retina.
A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that people who ate the highest amount of foods rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, had a 43 percent lower risk of developing AMD than those who ate these foods the least.1
Lutein and zeaxanthin are present in many fruits and vegetables, but can be found in the greatest concentration in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens. Research shows that lutein is readily absorbed from green-leafy vegetables.2,3 Eggs are another source of lutein and zeaxanthin. According to a recent study, substances in the yolk of an egg make it easy for the body to absorb both lutein and zeaxanthin.4
While there appears to be a link between carotenoid intake and AMD, more research is needed to support this information. In the meantime, a diet including at least two to four servings a week of foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin may help lower your risk of developing AMD.
Nutritional supplements may be a beneficial alternative for those people who cannot get adequate nutrients directly from fruits and vegetables. You should consult with your health care provider before starting nutritional therapy since supplements may cause side effects or reactions with other medications you may be taking.
1. Mares-Perlmean, J.A., Klein, R., 1999, Diet and Age-related Macular Degeneration, "Nutritional and Environmental Influences on the Eye." Taylor, A., Editor, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 181-214.
2. Hammond, BRJ et al. Dietary modification of human macular pigment density. Invest Opthalmol Vis Sci, 1997;38:1795-1801.
3. Micozzi, M.S. et al. Plasma carotenoid response to chronic intake of selected foods and beta-carotene supplements in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1992;55:1120-1125.
4. Handleman, G.J. et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in plasma after dietary supplementation with egg yolk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999;70:247-251.