How Diet Can Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a landmark study called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) that followed nearly 5,000 patients for more than a decade. The patients’ dietary habits were examined as part of the research. Patients eating the highest amounts of leafy greens such as kale, collard greens and spinach had a 40% reduction in the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Further, the same risk reduction was found in those patients eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon at least twice a week.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are members of the carotenoid family and are present in large amounts in leafy greens. These compounds are concentrated in the macula, the part of the retina needed for sharp central vision. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in the macula as well. Interestingly, for those of you wondering about carrots and eye health, no beta-carotene was found in the retina, debunking the myth that eating carrots is good for your eyesight.
In patients with macular degeneration, taking a supplement that contains lutein and zeaxanthin (AREDS-2 formula vitamins) reduces the risk of the macular degeneration progressing. There has not been a study that shows that omega-3 supplements prevent macular degeneration, although eating fish can.
In those patients without macular degeneration wanting to keep their eyes healthy, a diet rich in leafy vegetables and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids is recommended.
Source: The Relationship of Major American Dietary Patterns to Age-Related Macular Degeneration, American Journal of Ophthalmology, July 2014.
Akler Eye Center, Michelle Akler, M.D.