Nutrition, supplements, and macular degeneration
Can eating well help my eyesight?
You’ve probably heard that eating carrots helps your eyesight. This is theoretically true as carrots are high in vitamin A, and vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. However, most of us in the US (and Minnesota) don’t have to worry about this.
Where nutrition plays a bigger role is in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) prevention. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in people over age 65. Early age-related macular degeneration can cause visual symptoms such as blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision. Later stages of macular degeneration can lead to blindness. Certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants may slightly decrease progression of macular degeneration and reduce the chance of blindness.
So which vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help with macular degeneration?
In the 2001 Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) concluded a specific formula of vitamins A, C, and E along with zinc and copper decreased the progression of patients who had early macular degeneration. Antioxidants lutein (loo’-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan’-thin) were added to the formula in a follow-up study (AREDS2) in 2012.
Lutein is an antioxidant commonly found in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach. Zeaxanthin is found in corn and paprika. In people who are deficient in lutein and zeaxanthin, supplementation appeared to help decrease the progression of macular degeneration.
So what do we recommend?
Optometrists and ophthalmologists recommend the following to reduce your risk of macular degeneration and have your best chance of a lifetime of clear vision:
1. Eat a well-balanced diet high in antioxidants and zinc.
Antioxidants are compounds in food that delay and prevent cellular damage. Natural sources of eye-protective antioxidants are found in densely colored green, yellow, and orange foods such as kale, spinach, egg yolks, and sweet potatoes. Meat, nuts, and legumes are a great source of zinc.
2. Fight free radicals.
Free-radicals cause the cellular damage and breakdown that leads to macular degeneration. UV light and cigarette smoke are the two most common sources. Wear your sunglasses, and don’t smoke.
3. Empower yourself with genetic knowledge.
With easily accessible DNA testing now available, it’s easy to learn if you have the genetic predisposition to developing macular degeneration. If you do, taking steps to reduce your exposure to free-radicals, increase your dietary intake of antioxidants, or starting AREDS 2 supplementation might just help you see brighter into the future.
Have further questions about macular degeneration? Schedule an appointment today!