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Eye Health Studies

By Shaun Holt

There are a multitude of problems that can affect our eyes, which are more likely to occur with increasing age but they can affect anyone at any age.

Age Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older. It involves damage to the macula, which is a part of the retina needed for both sharp and central vision and is the most sensitive part of the retina. Usually, it progresses very slowly and a blurred area of vision is the first noticeable symptom. As the condition progresses, this blurred area enlarges, blank spots in the central area of vision may develop and there can be a reduction in perceived brightness. Whilst it generally does not cause complete blindness, this loss of central vision can interfere significantly with everyday activities including the ability to see faces, driving and reading.

Risk factors for developing AMD include smoking (which doubles the risk), being Caucasian and having a family history of AMD. In advanced cases, treatment can include injecting drugs into the eye which reduces the levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) or various forms of laser surgery.

Some common supplements that may be useful:

Everyone knows that carrots are important for vision as they contain a lot of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. There are two types of vitamin A. Retinoids come from animal products and beta-carotene is derived from plants. Vitamin A supplements can reverse poor vision in people with a vitamin A deficiency, but such a deficiency is rare in Western countries.

Vitamin A has been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of developing advanced AMD when it is taken alongside vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper. The results of this study showed that the combination of these vitamins and minerals reduced the risk of development of advanced AMD by 28%.

Also useful for AMD, as they are with so many other conditions, are omega 3 fatty acids. An increased intake of fatty fish reduced the risk of AMD, particularly if people consumed 2 or more servings per week.

Astaxanthin (which is pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”) is a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. It is a powerful antioxidant and is widely thought to improve vision.

There are few studies supporting this, the most convincing being a small study of the effects of astaxanthin on visual function in healthy volunteers. Taking astaxanthin for 28 days led to a significant improvement in uncorrected, far visual acuity.

Finally, lutein, which can be found in green leafy vegetables and egg yolks, was found in an intriguing small study to protect against the detrimental effects of long-term computer display light exposure.

Improvements in the eye’s sensitivity to contrast on a computer screen were observed following 12 weeks of supplementation with lutein in healthy volunteers. 12mg a day of lutein was used in the study, around double the suggested daily intake.