Vitamin Supplements for Eyes
In the fight against macular degeneration, research is showing that nutritional supplements can be key to slowing the progress of the disease, and in some cases, even reversing its effects.
The decade-long, broad-based Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) concluded in 2006 that a specific formulation of vitamins, betacarotenes, and zinc could keep patients with intermediate stage macular degeneration from developing the advanced form of the condition. This formulation is as follows:
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
Since the conclusion of that study, discoveries have been made concerning the macular pigment, a substance in the centre of the retina. Depletion of this pigment is now thought to be the cause of macular degeneration, and it has been discovered that supplementing patients with the xanthophylls that comprise the pigment can restore its density.
These carotenoids are: lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. A second AREDS study added lutein and zeaxanthin to the research mix, along with Omega-3 fatty acids. But since the study was undertaken, the third carotenoid, meso-zeaxanthin, has been discovered -- and it appears to be the most powerful and beneficial of the three.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are present in foods such as cooked kale and spinach. It's thought that patients suffering from macular degeneration do not have sufficient quantities of the two xanthophylls in their diets. Meso-zeaxanthin, however, is not available through the diet. It seems, instead, to be a product of enzyme conversion of lutein within the eye.
The macular pigment has two functions: to protect the eye against harmful free radicals by neutralizing them, and to keep destructive blue light from damaging the retina. When the pigment is depleted, it cannot perform either function satisfactorily, and the result is damage to the fovea – the area in the centre of the retina that contains the greatest number of photoreceptors, and that is responsible for detailed central vision.
Supplementing patients with a combination of all three of these carotenoids has proven to be the most effective way to slow destruction of the macular pigment, and in most cases, to restore its density. Patients who have experienced a restoration of the macular pigment report an improvement in vision, a result that was thought to be impossible.
These new discoveries are exciting for patients and researchers alike, and great strides continue to be made in the field.
It's important to remember, however, that supplement therapy is only part of the plan in treating macular degeneration. Other crucial measures for patients to take include:
Protecting the eye from further damage by wearing 100% UV-A and UV-B ray protective sunglasses with orange or red-orange lenses.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a well-balanced diet with plenty of antioxidants and leafy green vegetables, and excludes toxins such as saturated fats and aspartame.
Getting regular exercise to prevent from developing obesity or high cholesterol.
Quitting smoking and avoiding pollution whenever possible.
With new developments in macular degeneration research and knowledge about modifiable lifestyle risk factors, the fight against one of our most destructive eye diseases is perhaps, a battle that can be won.