Reducing the Risk of Macular Degeneration

By Stephen Cohen, O.D. —

Age-related eye conditions will triple in the next 15 years. Macular degeneration alone will account for 50 percent of visual impairment and 20 percent of blindness. It is also estimated that 30 million people are developing cataracts, due to factors such as: increased life expectancy, poor nutrition, ultraviolet (UV) exposure, diabetes, smoking and certain medications. Recently, “blue light” (most commonly emitted by the sun along with all other wavelengths of light, but now found in higher levels indoors due to overhead lighting, computer screens, tables and smart phones) has been labeled as a future cause of macular degeneration.

However, it is now shown that taking specific supplements can reduce macular degeneration by almost 25 percent and cataracts by 15 percent. This could save our healthcare system almost $7.5 billion. Additionally, four separate clinical studies performed in four different countries around the world showed that dietary supplementation can provide better visual acuity after just one year!

The three main components of this supplement are retinal carotenoid” that help with the metabolism in the back of the eye. You may have seen commercials for vitamins that include “lutein for macular health.” Lutein is the main component, which, interestingly, is also found in our brain. As a matter of fact, there has been a relationship established between macular degeneration and cognitive loss, and a belief that a deficiency in lutein may contribute to both problems. Lutein is found in green, leafy vegetables. The second component is zeaxanthin, which is found in orange vegetables, like orange peppers. The third carotenoid, Meso-Zeaxanthin, has only been recently discovered, and in our body is only found in the macula of our eyes. Unfortunately, it is very hard to obtain meso-zeaxanthin in our diets. As a matter of fact, it has been calculated that you would need to eat 220 pounds of fish skin to receive two milligrams of meso-zeaxanthin! No thanks!

There are numerous supplements available that contain one or two of these components, and at least one product, called “MacuHealth” that contains all three. Studies show that products like these can protect the eyes from oxidative stress, which is what happens when things rust. As such, these products have been affectionately called “ocular rust preventers,” or “internal sunglasses.” Vision can be sharper, and it has been shown that people with driving challenges (night driving, glare, peripheral awareness [such as at intersections]) can see improve in as little as one year after beginning this regimen.

Photo by Nithi clicks on Trend Hype / CC BY

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