Macular Degeneration Vitamins
Macular Degeneration has been treated with vitamin therapy for several years now. In1996, the National Eye Institute in the US began a broad-based, decade-long study of eye conditions known as AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study.) The study, completed in 2006, found that a daily supplement containing high levels of several antioxidants plus zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced Macular Degeneration by about 25 percent.
The multivitamin supplement used in the first AREDS contained:
Vitamin C - 500 mg
Vitamin E - 400 IU
Beta-carotene - 15 mg (equivalent of 25,000 IU of vitamin A)
Zinc (as zinc oxide) - 80 mg
Copper (as cupric oxide) - 2 mg
A second AREDS study is now underway; it aims to report findings in December of 2012. This study is going to look specifically at the possible benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and two xanthophylls: lutein and zeaxanthin.
It's now believed that the addition of a third substance, meso-zeaxanthin, can, in many cases, halt progression of the disease.
The Macula and Macular Pigment
The macula is an area at the centre of the retina. The feature was known as the "macula lutea” in ancient times, which means "yellow spot” in Latin. In the centre of the macula is an area known as the macular pigment. The pigment is thought to filter UV rays, blocking blue light from reaching the retina. This prevents the light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to Macular Degeneration.
The macular pigment is made up of three carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.
Two of these organic compounds are naturally occurring in food. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, and collards. Smaller amounts of these xanthophylls can be found in green peas, broccoli, corn, carrots, and green beans. A non-vegetable source for them is egg yolk.
Meso-zeaxanthin is created in the retina from ingested lutein.
The xanthophylls are thought to protect the retina against free radicals, unstable molecules that play a part in many diseases.
Recent research suggests that the key to preventing and treating Macular Degeneration lies with the macular pigment.
Two studies, one in Investigative Ophthalmology and one in Visual Science, found that eyes with greater levels of macular pigment were less likely to have or develop Macular Degeneration.
In a 2010 article published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, study authors concluded that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin filter short-wavelength light and prevent or reduce the generation of free radicals in the retinal pigment epithelium and choroid.
Two studies in Archives of Ophthalmology found that elevated levels of lutein and zeaxanthin coincided with a lower incidence of cataracts, as well as Macular Degeneration.
Nutrition & Metabolism published study findings to suggest that a nutritional supplement containing meso-zeaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin effectively increased the optical density of the macular pigment in eyes of the majority of human subjects.
New Hope for Patients
This recent research suggests new ways to prevent and treat Macular Degeneration. A healthy diet, regular exercise, protecting eyes from sun damage, and supplementing with xanthophylls can help patients at risk of developing advanced Macular Degeneration – preserving vision and improving quality of life.