Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Take steps now to protect your vision later

High dietary intakes of the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc may reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the most common cause of permanent blindness in the developed world.

AMD is a retinal degenerative disease that causes progressive loss of central vision, and the most common cause of vision loss in individuals over the age of 55 in the developed world. Although it rarely causes total blindness, AMD destroys the central vision necessary for performing many of the daily tasks we take for granted such as: recognizing faces, colors, watching television, reading, driving, performing finely detailed work, and safely navigating stairs. The risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that individuals whose diets contain high amounts of the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc have a significantly lower risk of developing AMD than people whose diets contain lower levels of the nutrients. This study included 4,176 men and women at risk of AMD who were participants in the Rotterdam Study, which enrolled 7,983 men and women aged 55 or older. Nutrient intake was assessed via food frequency questionnaires completed by all subjects. Participants underwent eye examinations upon enrollment, and three times during the eight year follow-up. 560 subjects were diagnosed with new macular degeneration during the follow-up period. Participants with an above-median intake of all four nutrients including beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, had a 35 percent reduced risk of AMD compared to those whose intake of any of the nutrients was below average. This study suggests that the risk of developing AMD can be modified by diet; in particular, by the dietary antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc.

Source: Dietary Intake of Antioxidants and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Redmer van Leeuwen, Sharmila Boekhoorn, Johannes R. Vingerling, Jacqueline C. M. Witteman, Caroline C. W. Klaver, Albert Hofman, Paulus T. V. M. de Jong, JAMA 2005;294:3101-3107