Macular Degeneration of Eyes -
How does it affect your vision?



Macular degeneration of eyes is the deterioration of a portion of the retina which progressively impairs the central field of vision. It can drastically diminish vision, but will not result in complete vision loss since peripheral vision is not affected.

Macular degeneration of eyes causes significant vision loss in thousands of people each year, and there are few treatment options at this time.

Nutrient therapy techniques are currently being studied to see if they can be useful in slowing or improving the condition of macular degeneration of eyes.

A High-fat Diet Can Increase The Risk of Macular Degeneration of Eyes

We've all heard about the research showing that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol can lead to obesity, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

Now a study conducted in Holland shows that people with atherosclerosis, or damaged arteries resulting from a build-up of fatty deposits along the artery walls, were more likely to have age related macular degeneration of eyes.

In a medical study, it was concluded that an unhealthy high-fat diet was found to increase risk of macular degeneration of eyes by 80 per cent.

A higher risk of developing cataracts has also been linked to the consequences of eating a high-fat diet. Researchers from Harvard University found that being overweight could raise your risk of developing cataracts. The heaviest men in this study were more than twice as likely to develop cataracts as those who weighed the least.

This report was published in Archives of Ophthalmology (September 1995). A separate study with women seems to support the same conclusion.

Benefits from Eating Fruits, Vegetables and Fibre

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by J Seddon of Harvard University concluded that increasing consumption of green, leafy vegetables, in particular spinach and kale, may decrease the risk of developing agerelated macular degeneration.

A possibly lower risk for macular degeneration was also suggested among people who had a higher intake of foods containing vitamin C. The study included almost 900 individuals and found that those who ate more foods rich in specific carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), which are pigments in fruits and vegetables, had a 43 per cent lower risk of age-related macular degeneration.

According to a study done by Sommerburg et al. at the University of Heidelberg Medical School in Germany (published in 1998 in the British Journal of Ophthalmology), corn, orange peppers, red grapes, kiwi fruit, orange juice, courgettes and other marrows are also good sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Mares-PerIman's research from the University of Wisconsin Medical School found that people who ate more fibre from breads and cereals had less severe cataracts. She also found that people who took a vitamin supplement had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing cataracts"

Smoking Increases Your Risk of Eye Disease

Studies in the October 9, 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association states that men and women who smoke 20 cigarettes or more a day are two and a half times as likely to suffer from macular degeneration of eyes than those who've never smoked.

New studies indicate that even when people quit smoking, they continue to have a higher risk of developing macular degeneration of eyes over the next 10 years than non-smokers. Other research indicates that there is also a higher risk among smokers of developing cataracts.

Taking Responsibility for a Healthy Diet

The research consistently confirms the advice that nutrition and dietary experts have been giving us since the 1960s. Eat a balanced diet emphasizing a wide variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables which are naturally low in fat, contain no cholesterol and offer potent disease-fighting properties due to the vitamins, minerals and fibre they provide. This is echoed in the recently revised US Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid, which stresses that most of our calories should come from whole grains, breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Meat, dairy, fats, oils and sweets are shown as smaller parts of the pyramid and should be eaten sparingly. Planning a diet that contains at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is also consistent with recommendations from the Cancer Society.

The studies cited in this summary support the need for further research on the relationship between diet and eye disease. On-going studies at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other research organizations are looking at antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, vitamins C and E, and other nutrients such as selenium, zinc and copper which are found in the macula of the eye. Although no specific dietary recommendations have been formalized, the studies indicate that you should consider including foods that contain these nutrients in your diet. Some foods which contain the nutrients found in the macula of the eye are:

  • dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale oranges or other fruits high in vitamin C
  • a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables which are high in nutrients, including (but not limited to) carrots, broccoli and tomatoes
  • a variety of whole grains, including (but not limited to) whole wheat and oats lentils, soybean products, almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds.

Scientists around the world are now finding compelling consistent evidence that a diet with a high intake of fruits and vegetables offers a protective effect against disease.

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