Antioxidants and macular degeneration

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 17th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

One of the most common causes of irreversible blindness in the elderly is macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration, or A-M-D for short, involves progressive damage to the macula, the area near the center of the light-senstive retina that’s responsible for detailed vision.

Unless effective treatments are found soon, the number of patients severely disabled by macular disease is expected to spike in the next twenty years by more than fifty percent.

One solution to the problem lies not in your medicine cabinet, but in your kitchen. New research shows a regular diet rich in the antioxidant vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc may substantially reduce the risk of A-M-D.

Dutch researchers, reporting recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, studied the dietary habits of more than four-thousand elderly residents of Rotterdam who were at risk of A-M-D. Food intake was studied for three years. During an eight-year follow-up period, more than thirteen percent of the participants developed new cases of macular degeneration.

A moderate increase of all four nutrients in their regular diets, compared with a below-average intake of at least one of the antioxidants, yielded a thirty-five percent reduced risk of A-M-D. The risk of degeneration increased by twenty percent among those who substantially dropped all four nutrients from their diets. Foods high in these nutrients include whole grains, vegetable oil, eggs and nuts. Meat, poultry, fish and dairy products also are good choices, not to mention carrots, citrus, broccoli and potatoes.