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Vitamin D3 Protects Against Eye Aging

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By David Liu PHD and editing by Stacey Sexton

Saturday Jan 7, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Vitamin D has been known to boost immunity against the aging process, helping to fight age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

William B. Grant, PhD of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in May 2009 saying that low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D have been correlated with an elevated risk for Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia.

Vitamin D is generally regarded as vital to maintaining health.  Its deficiency has been linked to more than 100 health conditions including cancers, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, depression, dental caries, osteoporosis and periodontal disease.  These conditions are considered risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's.

In addition to its link with all of these conditions, a new study reported in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggests that vitamin D3 is related to eye health.  Researchers believe it can prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or other eye diseases.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is an eye disease that affects the macula, a part of the retina. The retina sends light from the eye to the brain, and the macula allows you to see fine detail, according to the National Institute of Health.

Aging can cause changes in the outer retina of the eye where high metabolic demand results in a gradual increase in extracellular deposition, inflammation and cell loss leading to visual decline, researchers of the study said.

Vivian Lee and colleagues from University College London treated aging mice with vitamin D3 for 6 weeks and then observed what impact vitamin D could have on the aging process.

They found the treatment reduced retinal inflammation and levels of amyloid beta accumulation, which are marks of aging.   Excessive amyloid beta accumulation and inflammation can lead to the development of age-related macular degeneration, the biggest risk factor for blindness in people aged 50 or older in industrialized countries.

The treatment was also found to significantly reduce retinal macrophage numbers and marked shifts in their morphology. These changes were coupled with significant improvement of visual function, the researchers said.

It remains largely unknown what causes AMD.  Smoking and obesity may be two modifiable risk factors.  Once the disease develops, there is no cure.  However, treatment may delay and possibly prevent intermediate age-related macular degeneration from progressing to the advanced stage.

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