FOCUS ON EYE HEALTH
Combat age-related macular degeneration with the right nutrients.
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Combat age-related macular degeneration with the right nutrients
Located in the center of the eye’s retina, the macula is a tiny yellowish spot that enables the eye to see fine details. In age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the macula either becomes abnormally thin or damaged by destructive molecules known as free radicals. Two types of AMD exist. The “dry” form accounts for the majority of cases, while the “wet” form accounts for only 10 percent or so of AMD cases. AMD is the major cause of blindness among seniors, affecting almost 2 million Americans and accounting for a partial loss of vision in an estimated 10 million.
Considerable evidence points to low levels of several nutrients as risk factors for developing the dry form of macular degeneration. These nutrients include the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (found in leafy dark green vegetables), which actually form the macula. Other protective nutrients include the omega-3s and B-complex vitamins.
Conventional medicine can prescribe drugs and laser treatments for the wet form of AMD, in which abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina and near the macula. No conventional treatment exists for the dry form of AMD.
Certain dietary habits seem to reduce the risk of AMD. These include consuming large amounts of leafy dark green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as well as fresh fish. Aside from providing antioxidant protection and essential oils, these foods also help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, important because high blood sugar has been linked to an increased risk of AMD.
Studies suggest that certain supplements might reduce the risk of, or slow the progression of, AMD. Some of these supplements might improve visual acuity and reduce glare, which leads to a slight improvement in people with AMD.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Numerous studies have found that eating high-lutein diets or taking lutein supplements thickens the macular pigment within several months. These nutrients help protect the macula from harmful blue wavelengths of light. The body converts some lutein to zeaxanthin. However, a recent study, conducted in Ireland, found that eye supplements were of greater benefit when they included zeaxanthin. Another recent study found that a combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fats also increased the thickness of the macular pigment. Lutein and zeaxanthin supplements also reduce glare. Take: 10-20 mg of lutein and 2-4 mg of zeaxanthin.
Omega-3s. People who regularly consume fresh fish have a much lower risk of developing AMD. In one study, researchers found that eating fish at least twice weekly was associated with a 24 percent lower risk of early-onset AMD and a 33 percent lower risk of late-onset AMD. In addition, high intake of omega-3s from all sources (fish, plants, supplements) was associated with a 38 percent reduced risk of AMD. One study reported that taking 800 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily for four months led to an increase in thickness of the center of the macular pigment, whereas lutein increased the thickness of the outer regions of the macular pigment. Other research has shown that DHA and lutein work well together. Take: 800 mg of DHA daily.
B Vitamins. A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School asked 5,205 women to take a either a combination of three B vitamins or placebos daily for an average of seven years. The protective effect of these B vitamins started to appear after two years. Women taking the vitamin supplements had a 34 percent lower risk of developing any form of AMD and a 41 percent lower risk of severe AMD. Take: Approximately 2,500 mcg (2.5 mg) of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6, and 1,000 mcg (1 mg) of vitamin B12.
Vitamin D. Researchers at the University of Buffalo, New York, studied 1,312 women. They found that women under the age of 75 who maintained relatively high levels of vitamin D, from food or supplements, had about one-half the risk of developing AMD.
HELP FOR NIGHT BLINDNESS
For people with night blindness, driving at night can be terrifying. The condition is characterized by the eyes’ inability to quickly adjust to changes in light, such as oncoming headlights. And it’s almost always a sign of vitamin A deficiency. The vitamin is needed to make a pigment found in the retina’s light-sensing cells called rods. Try taking 25,000 IU of vitamin A daily for one month, then decreasing the amount to 10,000 IU daily.
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