Micronutrients Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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By Jimmy Downs

Sunday Jan 20, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review published in International Journal of Ophthalmology suggests that micronutrients including vitamin C, E, zinc, β-carotene and dietary supplements like lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can help prevent age related macular degeneration (AMD) in some men and women.

Tariq Aslama from University of Manchester in Manchester, UK and colleagues report in their review that evidence from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) is strong to indicate that vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and β-carotene are effective in slowing the rate of deterioration of stage 3 o 4 AMD to a late stage of the illness during a 5-year follow-up.

However, these micronutrients were found effective in preventing the progression of the early AMD to neovascular AMD (advanced form of AMD), but not to atrophic AMD, the authors note. 

Smokers need to know that  "high β-carotene intakes are contraindicated for smokers due to a potential increased risk for lung cancer," as the authors note.

Carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA found in oily fish oil may also help prevent AMD.

Vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A and carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are found in various vegetables.  Vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin are found high in peas, kale, spinach, watercress, turnip, sprouts, and broccoli.  Vitamin C is found high in citrus fruits and their juices, kiwi fruit, cabbage and cauliflower.   And vitamin E is high in "wholegrain cereals, vegetable oils, nuts, turnips, beetroot, tomatoes, pumpkins, asparagus and broccoli," according to the review.

Zinc is found high in seafood like oysters while omega-3 fatty acids are found high in oily fish and seafood.

The authors pointed out that intake of these micro nutrients from foods is likely insufficient to provide a protective effect against AMD.   Dietary supplements are needed in many cases.

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