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The Macular Degeneration Diet

May 13, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The most common form of vision loss associated with aging is called Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). But like many other symptoms related to aging and genetic expression, the risk of encountering AMD can be reduced by adjusting one’s diet.

Several recent studies paint a clear picture about which dietary choices increase and reduce the risk of AMD. The newly released information is all the more important because of the discovery of a link between AMD and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. (1) Both conditions share common risk factors such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, cigarette smoking and high blood pressure.

Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss

The first study from the University of Sydney, Australia followed more than 2,400 volunteers over the course of 10 years. Retinal photography was used as a guide to measure the progression of AMD. These tests were conducted at the 5 and 10 year mark. Food frequency questionnaires were also administered. Here are some of the most impressive findings of this study:

  • Those eating 1-2 servings of nuts a week reduced the risk of “early” AMD by 35%.
  • Eating at least one serving of fish weekly lowered AMD risk by 31%. (2)

Another Australian study involving over 6,700 seniors found a strong association between the intake of trans fats (hydrogenated fats) and late AMD. Trans fats are most commonly found in processed foods containing margarine such as cakes, cookies, pastries and an assort ment of commercially produced “junk food”.

Once again, an inverse association was discovered between omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish as well as some seeds and nuts) and early AMD. Olive oil was also shown to provide a dramatically protective effect on the development of late AMD. (3)

The diets of the same group of seniors were assessed based on protein intake. The regular consumption of chicken (eaten more than 3 times per week) seemed to protect against late AMD. On the other hand, the ingestion of red and processed meat was linked to an increased likelihood of early AMD. (4)

In May 2009, a study was published in the journal Opthalmology which broadened the field of eye-friendly foods and nutrients. The following nutritional components were associated with a slowing of the progression of AMD:

  • Vitamins C and E
  • Zinc
  • Lutein & Zeaxanthin (antioxidant carotenoids)
  • DHA & EPA (fatty acids found in fish)

Macular Degeneration and Vision LossA low glycemic diet, low in sugar and rich in whole foods, is also advisable. The idea behind such a diet is to promote nutrient density and maintain more balanced blood sugar levels. (5)

When looking at all of the above information, it reminded me of a scientific study from 2007 which promoted the idea of cooking green leafy vegetables (a great source of lutein) in olive oil in order to enhance the absorption of lutein. This simple piece of advice alone could significantly aid those who are at risk for developing AMD. (6)

All of these dietary recommendations not only help promote ocular health , but are also heart healthy. This brings us back to the proposed connection between brain function, cardiovascular health and macular degeneration. This is a very common occurrence in natural medicine. A solution for one health problem sometimes improves other aspects of health.

Be well!

JP

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4 Comments to “The Macular Degeneration Diet”

  1. Jack Hilton Says:

    Very good article related to macular degereration. Dr. T. Colin Campbell has brought out the relationship between dark green leafy vegetables and other carotenoids and there relationship to this same condition. Excellent!

    Jack Hilton, M.S., R.D.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Jack! Much appreciated!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    About 20 years ago my mother was rapidly losing her vision to macular degeneration. She had just experienced her first driving accident. Her ophthalmologist told her that she was almost totally blind in one eye and the other eye was failing fast. He told there was nothing she could do and to just get used to the idea of being blind.

    This was about the time that health news was reporting the benefits of lutein & zeanthine. I ordered bulk powered supplies of the supplements and started her taking huge doses, plus vit C and various other nutrients. In a few months her doc checked her eyes and was amazed at her improvement. When she tried to explain what she’d done, he said, “I don’t want to hear about it but keep up whatever you’re doing.” After about a year he pronounced her completely free from any macular degeneration. She continued driving for another 15 years. She’s close to age 93 now and reads daily.

  4. JP Says:

    Iggy,

    What a great and inspiring anecdote! My mom had a similar experience. In her case, the problem mostly related to cataracts. High dosage antioxidants and some dietary changes have helped mom to preserve her sight.

    Be well!

    JP

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