Belfast: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of the eye which is the leading cause of blindness for adults aged over 60, may be accelerated by deficiencies in the diet.
And new research has confirmed that two nutrients in particularl, lutein and zeaxanthin can prevent and even slow down the disease. AMD attacks the macular, which is responsible for sharp central vision and is a disease over and above the normal wear and tear experienced by ageing eyes.
But Professor Usha Chakravarthy of Queens University Centre of Vision and Vascular Science and Dr Stephen Beatty of the Waterford Institute of Technology reported that a supplement containing high amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in addition to the antioxidant nutrients zinc and vitamins C and E, helped preserve macular pigments in patients with age related macular degeneration (AMD), retarding the progression of early to late stage disease. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older individuals residing in western nations.
Professor Chakravarthy and colleagues administered the nutritional supplement or a placebo to 433 participants with early macular degeneration enrolled in centers in Belfast and Waterford, Ireland. The subjects, whose average age was 77 upon enrollment, were followed from October, 2004 to March, 2008.
While participants who received the placebo experienced a steady decline in protective macular pigments, these pigments were preserved in those who received lutein and zeaxanthin.
“Late AMD causes severe sight loss and has a huge economic impact both in terms of the effects of sight loss itself and in terms of the expensive treatments that are needed to deal with the condition, Dr Chakravarthy stated.
“Up to 500 people a year in Northern Ireland will lose sight in one or both eyes as a result of late AMD . . . Prevention of progression to late AMD can result in a reduced financial and societal burden.”
“These findings are important because this is the first randomized controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigments, he noted. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.”
There are two types of AMD – dry when the light sensitive cells in the macular break down and wet when the normal blood vessels in the retina start to grow under the macular.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are thought to be particularly helpful to eye health when combined with a mult-vitamin.
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