There is evidence that nutrients can play an important role in treating and preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60 in the United States.
Macular degeneration affects the tissue in the eye that is responsible for central vision, says Tammy Roberts, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.
“Some studies have shown that people who eat dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens have a lower risk of AMD,” Roberts says. “There is lutein in these foods. Lutein is concentrated in the retina and the macula of the eye. It is responsible for absorbing the blue part of the light spectrum, which ultimately protects the retina from light damage.”
The National Institutes of Health’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that a combination of antioxidant vitamins plus zinc helped to slow the progression of intermediate macular degeneration to an advanced stage. The vitamin and mineral mix contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc and copper. Consult with a physician about this vitamin mix.
Risk factors for AMD include age, gender (women are more likely than men to develop it), smoking, family history, cardiovascular disease, high blood cholesterol, light eye color, long-term exposure to sunlight, abdominal obesity and low levels of antioxidants in the blood.
“Our eyes are important for every activity that we do,” Roberts said. “Controlling the risk factors for AMD that you are able to control, such as nutrition, can help you keep your vision for as long as possible.”
Protect your eyes with these healthy habits:
- Eat a healthy diet high in green leafy vegetables, whole grains and fish.
- Don’t smoke; nicotine limits the oxygen in your bloodstream and creates free radicals that can damage your eyes.
- Keep your blood pressure under control through diet and medication, if needed.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise.
- Limit your exposure to ultraviolet light; wear sunglasses and a hat when outdoors.
- Get regular eye exams.
For more food and nutrition information from MU Extension, including feature articles, answers to frequently asked questions and learning opportunities, go to www.missourifamilies.org/nutrition.