|Age-Related Macular Degeneration|
by Cathy Wong
Published in the October 2001 issue of "Archives of Ophthalmology", this study was a randomized clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health. In this study, the researchers found that antioxidants and zinc significantly reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration by about 25%. The risk of vision loss due to advanced AMD was reduced by about 19%. This research suggests that antioxidants and zinc may help people at high risk for developing advanced AMD keep their vision.
What you need to know:
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that dramatically increases in frequency after age 60, is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in the United States. Most people with AMD have a dry form of the disease, for which there is no standard treatment.
This is not the first study to suggest that antioxidants and zinc may be effective in the prevention and treatment of AMD.
Nutritional supplements address the underlying pathology of AMD, i.e. free radical damage and poor oxygen flow to the macula in the eye.
Although this study found the most benefit in people with advanced AMD, in practice, people with early AMD have benefited from the use of antioxidants and zinc.
The combination used in this study contained vitamin C (500mg), vitamin E (400IU), beta-carotene (15mg, or 25,000 IU), zinc (80mg zinc oxide), and copper (2mg cupric oxide).
Total vitamin and mineral intake from food, daily multivitamins and supplements should be reviewed with a health care practitioner to determine an individual's requirement for antioxidants and zinc.
Mixed carotenoids may have a greater antioxidant effect than beta-carotene alone. Beta-carotene is only one type of carotenoid. While beta-carotene generates vitamin A efficiently, other carotenes such as alpha-carotene and lycopene are more effective antioxidants.
Zinc should not be given in high doses without copper. High levels of zinc alone can cause a copper deficiency. Copper deficiency is associated with poor collagen integrity and increased LDL and total cholesterol.
People taking blood-thinning prescription medications, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), or garlic should consult a health care practitioner before taking vitamin E.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk for AMD, particularly green leafy vegetables, yellow-orange vegetables, and blueberries. Fried and grilled foods should be avoided.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and grape seed (Vitis vinifera) have excellent antioxidant ability. Bilberry has a strong affinity for the retinal pigmented epithelium of the eye, the area that is affected by AMD. Many natural health practitioners include these bilberry in the treatment of AMD.
1. National Eye Institute.
2. Murray MT, Pizzorno JE. Textbook of Natural Medicine, Vol 1 and 2. Churchill Livingstone. Edinburgh, 1999.
3. Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Prima Health. Roseville, CA; 1996.
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