The Role of Nutrition in Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. This acquired eye disease affects the macula (central part of the retina) and makes it harder to read, write, drive and do other activities that require central vision. The severity of AMD depends on the individual. Some people lose a lot of vision in both eyes, while others only lose some in one eye.

As common as AMD is, there are ways to lower your risk. One of the best ways to do this is with a healthy diet. Studies show that certain antioxidants and nutrients can help build and maintain the thickness of the retinal pigment layer, thus reducing the risk for AMD. Certain nutrients can also slow the progression of AMD. 

Let’s explore the role that nutrition plays in the onset of macular degeneration and which nutrients you should focus on.

Nutrition and AMD 

The exact cause of AMD is not known. However, it has been linked to a number of health problems, such as high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and a family history of AMD. By discussing your diet with your eye specialist, you can add the right nutrients to your diet and help save your vision. 

Antioxidants cannot reverse the symptoms of AMD, but they may be able to slow the progression. Researchers believe this to be the case because certain compounds reduce the impact of free radicals on the macular pigment. These compounds can also help build and maintain a thick retinal pigment layer, halting the development of AMD. 

Best Nutrients for Preventing AMD 

There are many vision-healthy foods to eat, but specific nutrients and antioxidants are linked to lowering the risk of AMD. According to a large clinical trial, these nutrients are:

  • 10 mg lutein. Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as eggs. Many studies show that lutein is effective at reducing eye diseases, including AMD. 
  • 2 mg zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is what gives color to paprika, saffron, corn and wolfberries. It is also found in green leafy vegetables. Like lutein, the body doesn’t make zeaxanthin on its own, so eating dark green vegetables is important. 
  • 500 mg vitamin C. To slow AMD progression, you need 500 mg a day of vitamin C. When taking with other essential nutrients like vitamin E, zinc or beta-carotene, vitamin C slows AMD and visual acuity loss. 
  • 400 mg vitamin E. Taking 400 IU/day of vitamin E can slow progression of AMD by 25 percent. As with vitamin C, it’s best to take vitamin E with other antioxidants like beta-carotene.
  • 40-80 mg zinc. Combine zinc with other vitamins for the best results. Zinc is shown to reduce AMD and visual acuity loss. If you take 40-80 mg of zinc, you should also take 2 mg of a copper supplement. 

When starting any type of nutritional plan, be sure to discuss it with your eye doctor. A qualified ophthalmologist will help you create a healthy eating plan that safely adds the right nutrients and antioxidants into your diet. To schedule an appointment with a highly qualified retinal disease specialist in Brooklyn, contact Empire Retina Consultants today.