A question I am often asked is whether changes in your diet or taking supplement can prevent AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration). There have been many studies looking at this issue but probably the most important research in this area is from the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS).
AREDS was started more than 10 years ago to see if high dose anti-oxidants supplements were useful in preventing progression to advanced macular degeneration in patients with early dry macular degeneration. This study did show some benefit for moderate to advanced dry AMD patients.
So, eye doctors are now recommending that dry AMD patients take supplements daily to prevent their eye from developing wet AMD. Wet macular degeneration is bleeding at the macula which can cause severe visual loss.
It is important to see your eye doctor before you take any such supplements as you may not actually need to take them. Also, supplements can interact with your medications and cause side effects.
Vegetables May Improve Vision
We have always been told to eat our vegetables and our mothers were right! Colourful vegetables like carrots, beetroot, green lettuce, and tomatoes, contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are the natural pigments that give colour to egg yolks, tomatoes, green leaves, fruits, and flowers. They cannot be made internally in the body, and therefore, must be obtained from the diet.
Beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are members of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids are light-gathering pigments and protect against the toxic effects of ultra-violet radiation and oxygen.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the macula, and are protect our retina from UV light damage. UV light exposure is thought to be one of the causes of AMD. Carotenoids also have antioxidant properties.
Omega-3 Fish Oils Might Slow AMD
Omega-3 fish oils are also popular food supplements for a variety of conditions. They have anti-inflammatory properties and may be helpful in AMD patients.
In AREDS, they found that patients with early AMD are were eating more two portions of oily fish a week had a lower rate of progressing to wet AMD than patients who ate less oily fish. Again, it seems like our mothers were right to nag us to eat more fish!
A new study called AREDS2 has been started and will look at whether taking lutein, zeaxathin, and fish oil supplements can help prevent or delay progression of AMD. As a retinal specialist, I look forward to the results of this study.
For further information about how diet and supplements can help in AMD, please check out my article in my regular medical column in the Star newspaper, “Food and Your Macula.”