Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans aged 55 years old and up. Every year, more than 10 million adults suffer from increasing vision loss because of damage to the macula.
With macular degeneration, the old saying “ an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, is particularly true. Since there is no known cure for this irreversible disease, preventing macular de with eye-protecting nutrients is essential part of the prevention process.
To understand how to prevent macular degeneration, it is important to know more about the anatomy of the eye. Behind each of your eyes is a layer that records the images we see. This layer is called the retina, which sends the images to the brain through the optic nerves. At the center of the retina is a small portion of about 5 mm in diameter that is concentrated with nerves. This is the macula, the part of the eye responsible for focusing central vision in the eyes.
The macula is what allows us to perform daily tasks, such as reading, writing, driving, cooking and recognizing faces. People who suffer from macular degeneration have an reduced ability to do these tasks.
Usually, the first sign of macular degeneration is blurred or crooked lines. You might also see that colors aren’t as bright as they usually are. People with advanced macular degeneration might even see blank spots in their vision.
As people become older, the risk for developing macular degeneration dramatically increases. If you’re afraid of developing the conditon, or if you’re in the early or even intermediate stages of this disease, there are a number of vitamins and minerals that you can supplement with to keep your eyes healthy, or at least to slow down the deterioration of the macula.
Preventing macular degeneration with vitamins
The name Vitamin A makes it sound like it’s a single substance. However, Vitamin A is actually a family of compounds that share a similar structure and provide related health benefits. Specific Vitamin A compounds that provide benefits for people with macular degeneration are lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene.
These three are antioxidants that play an important role in preserving vision as well as strengthening the immune system and promoting bone health. As antioxidants, they protect the eyes from free radical damage, which can happen when the eyes are over-exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
In the landmark clinical trial Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) commissioned by the National Eye Institute, researchers found out that people who took high doses of Vitamins A, C, E and zinc had a significant slowdown in the progress of macular degeneration.
The study followed 3,600 participants at various stages of age-related macular degeneration. The results showed that those who took the AREDS vitamins slowed down macular degeneration by up to 25% and overall vision loss by 19%.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a common antioxidant found in several fruits and vegetables. It is popular because it is thought to be the best cure for the common cold, since it is a powerful immune booster.
In addition to its immune enhancing benefits, Vitamin C has many other health benefits you can enjoy. Like Vitamin A, this vitamin protects the eyes from free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that cause damage to healthy cells by reacting with their components.
Results of the AREDS showed that supplementing with Vitamin C at a dose of 500 mg helped slow down the progress of macular degeneration in individuals who were at intermediate and advanced stages of the disease.
Vitamin E is a group of eight compounds called tocopherols and tocotrienols. In its most biologically active form, alpha-tocopherol, Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the eye cells from damage caused by free radicals, which break down healthy tissue.
In the AREDS, participants who were given a supplement with 400 IU of Vitamin E along with other vitamins showed significant improvement with macular degeneration.
Vitamin E has also been proven to be an effective treatment for people with cataracts.
Zinc is a trace mineral. This means the body needs only a small amount of zinc for it to function properly.
The role of zinc is primarily as a helper molecule. It helps by bringing Vitamin A to the retina and producing a protective pigment for the eyes called melanin. People with darker eyes, those who live in the tropics, have more melanin in their eyes to absorb the ultraviolet rays of the sun. In contrast, blue and green-eyed populations that live mostly in the northern hemispheres, have less melanin in their eyes.
Zinc is also instrumental in various other chemical reactions in the eyes. In fact, a healthy retina and the tissues surrounding it are primarily composed of zinc. In addition, it helps protect the cell membranes in the eyes to fight off damaging free radicals.
In the AREDS, participants who took 40 to 80 mg of zinc showed significant improvement in macular degeneration over the six-year-study period.
High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is acquired mostly from eating meat, is a significant risk factor for macular degeneration. Patients with macular degeneration have been shown to have high homocysteine levels, which can be reduced by supplementing with Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid such as those found in Frontrunner Health B PRO ACTIVE featured on the site..
B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that are essential in converting food into energy because they break down fats and proteins for absorption into the body.
In a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies, folic acid lowered homocysteine levels in people with macular degeneration by as much as 25%. The addition of Vitamin B12, also known as pyroxidine, further decreased homocysteine by another 7%.
A large-scale study also showed that a combination of Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce risk for macular degeneration in people who have high homocysteine levels.
You can begin protecting your own eye health by using the kinds of AREDS vitamins used in the notable study. The Macular Degeneration Vitamins offered on this site are professional grade and offer all the vitamins and minerals cited in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, as well as many other flavanoids that reduce our risk of free radical damage.