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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness for people ages 55-plus in the Western world, causing the loss of central vision.  Researchers from the Fondazione G. B. Bietti-Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (Italy) studied 27 men and women, average age 69.6 years, for one year. Fifteen study participants received daily antioxidant and carotenoid supplements, which provided 180 mg vitamin C, 30 mg vitamin E, 22.5 mg zinc, 1 mg copper, 10 mg lutein, 1 mg zeaxanthin, and 4 mg astaxanthin.  The team found that the subjects who received the supplement showed a significant improvement in the function of the central retina (the portion of the eye most adversely impacted in AMD).

Omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as key nutrients that help to maintain the layer of nerve cells in the retina.  Researchers from the University of Melbourne (Australia) completed a meta-analysis of nine studies which included 88,974 participants and 3,203 people with AMD.  The team found that those subjects with a high dietary intake of omega-3s were at a 23% reduced risk of early AMD.  In addition, the team reported that high omega-3 dietary intake reduced the risk of advanced AMD by 38%.

A team from Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts USA) tested a theory that AMD may be correlated to blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to dysfunction of the blood vessel lining.  The team recruited women with heart disease, or at least three risk factors for the disease; of these, 96% did not have AMD at the start of the study. The women were randomly assigned to receive a combination of folic acid (2.5 mg per day), vitamin B6 (50 mg per day) and vitamin B12 (1 mg per day); or placebo. Over the course of 7.3 years of intervention and follow-up, the combined B vitamin supplement was associated with a 34% lower risk of any AMD and a 41% lower risk of visually significant AMD.  The researchers posit that vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid help to reduce homocysteine levels and reverse blood vessel dysfunction involved with AMD.

Early detection is the primary mode of prevention of AMD, and some studies (such as those discussed above) suggest a potential role for certain nutrients to intervene in the disease. Eat a balanced diet, and aim to consume foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3s to help maintain your eye health.


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