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Avoiding Serious Eye Trouble With Nutrition

Feb 26, 2016 05:39PM ● By Deana LaBrosse

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in those over 60 in the U.S. The disease destroys the part of the retina that is responsible for color perception and 20/20 central vision. It is often described as the “disease of decades”, because the onset and severity of the disease is a result of how we treated our body in our youth. The prevalence of the disease is expected to more than double by the year 2030. Known risk factors include previous history of smoking, being female, caucasian (particularly with blue eyes), BMI over 25, hypertension and family history.

The only treatment for the most common type of macular degeneration, the “dry” form, is nutrition based. Two major studies, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study I and II, measured the effect of taking a specific formula of antioxidants, carotenoids and omega-3 on the progression of AMD. Those patients diagnosed with mild to moderate AMD showed a 25 percent reduction in progression to more severe, visually devastating forms of AMD at year five.

It is important to note that the studies did not focus on the formula in terms of preventing the onset of the disease. Other research has shown that two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, act as protectors of the macular cells against damage, and higher blood serum levels have been correlated in multiple studies to a reduced prevalence of AMD—from 63 percent to 95 percent. The best source of lutein and zeaxanthin is green, leafy vegetables and red peppers. For those that do not consume their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily or have risk factors for developing macular degeneration, supplementation with these nutrients is highly recommended.


Deana LaBrosse, a doctor of optometry, is the owner of Evanston Eye Wellness, in Evanston. For more information, visit

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