Three Nutrients That Protect Against Vision Loss

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Macular degeneration is a serious disease. It affects over 10 million Americans, most of whom are 55 and older. In fact, this eye disease affects more people than glaucoma and cataracts combined. Sight is with us from the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep. It is something people depend on in their daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that, as we age, our eyesight begins to deteriorate. Researchers have made strides in recent years to delay this loss of sight and are constantly searching for alternative cures that could beat macular degeneration.

It’s good news then that a new study has found a simple, safe cure without prescription side effects. According to a team of scientists from the Netherlands, people with a genetic susceptibility to macular degeneration could cut their risk of developing the disease by as much as one-third.

Age-related macular degeneration accounts for half of all cases of blindness in developed countries, the researchers note. In the United States, the condition occurs in more than six out of every 100 adults over age 40(!). Though patients can be treated with medications and surgery, none of these remedies cures the disease.

Who is likely to get macular degeneration? There are at least two gene variations known to raise a person’s risk for developing the condition compared to the general population. One of the variations (called “CFH”) increases a person’s odds of macular degeneration up to 11-fold and another (called “LOC387715S”) raises them by up to 15-fold.

For their study, the researchers set out to see whether these especially susceptible people might reduce their risk. They surveyed the eating habits of more than 2,000 participants over the age of 55. All were tested for the macular degeneration susceptibility genes. For the next 10 years, all the participants had eye exams every three years to determine who suffered vision loss.

The research team found that, among people with the CFH variation, greater amounts of zinc, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and/or lutein/zeaxanthin in the diet were linked to a smaller risk of macular degeneration. How much smaller was the risk? Consider these statistics: 39 out of every 100 people who ate the lowest amounts of omega-3 fats (about 22 milligrams per day) developed vision loss. Contrast this with only 28 out of every 100 people who ate the largest amounts of omega-3s (268 mg per day) who ended up experiencing vision loss. For those who had the genetic variation, reduced risk of vision loss was seen among 25% of people who ate 11.85 mg per day of zinc, compared to 33% of people who ate just 7.5 mg per day.

Here’s some health advice: boost your diet with zinc, omega-3s and lutein and zeaxanthin. Good sources for zinc include these healing foods: oysters; red meat; nuts; and beans. Oily fish are some of the best food sources for omega-3 fats. Lutein and zeaxanthin are abundant in eggs and green leafy vegetables.