Nutrients that Decrease Your Risk for Macular Degeneration

The older we get, the greater the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But we’re not helpless victims of this condition. We can take preventative steps. Let’s ask some experts in the field what they would recommend to prevent AMD.

Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni, a Harvard graduate, leads the Clinical Trials Branch at the National Eye Institute. Just this year he was awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Award.

Dr. SanGiovanni has a passion to combat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). His recent comprehensive study demonstrates that two specific nutrients are vital to eye protection.

“People reporting higher intake of [the nutrients] from foods have a reduced likelihood of having AMD,” he says.
Dr. Paul Bernstein concurs with this research. Also a graduate of Harvard Medical School and director of research for the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, he thinks that these two nutrients are central to prevention of AMD.

Another eye expert even says these nutrients can reduce AMD risk by 43 percent.

“[The nutrients] are concentrated in the macula,” he says, “and are derived exclusively from diet.”

Hmm… Here we are again, back to diet as a key to preventing another degenerative condition. Are we seeing a pattern here? What we eat can make a difference in our health.

But what is the macula anyway?

The macula, a specialized area of the retina, provides what we experience as our central area of vision. It absorbs the blue and UV light waves that enter the eye. Since the blue light contains so much more high energy than the red light, it presents a huge threat to damaging the macula with its potential for free radical damage.

That’s where these 2 nutrients come into play.

Dr. Brandon Lewis, Senior Scientist at Kemin Health, a graduate of the University of Florida with a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition and researcher in the actions of lutein and zeaxanthin says:

“Lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to filter high-energy wavelengths of visible light and act as antioxidants to protect against the formation of reactive oxygen species and subsequent free radicals.”

In other words, lutein and zeaxanthin protect the retina from free radical damage and help prevent the deterioration that leads to AMD.

Classified as carotenoids, zeaxanthin concentrates in the macula and lutein resides in the rest of the retina. Chemically they look like twins, but they have different 3 dimensional structures that give them slightly different mechanisms of action on the tissues.
With those tongue-twisting names you might wonder where in the world you would find them. Fortunately they reside in common foods that we would do well to consume regularly.

Carotenoids lend color to food and lutein and zeaxanthin give yellow hues to the tissues. You’ll find them in the greatest concentration in green vegetables like spinach and kale. You only need to eat ½ cup of cooked kale to ingest 10.3 mg of lutein. Half a cup of spinach contains 6.3 mg.

That’s great news because Dr. Johanna Seddon studied AMD for 20 years as a pioneer of nutritional research in AMD. Her research shows that eating 6 mg of lutein per day leads to a 43 percent lower risk of AMD.

If you eat your green veggies raw, you receive even greater benefits. And you can make your meals eye appealing and varied with these other foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin: egg yolk, broccoli, corn, lettuce (cos or romaine), peas and a host of other vegetables and fruit contain lower amounts that will add up to what you need to protect your macula.

You can find a handy chart of lutein and zeaxanthin containing foods here:
And here’s another handy list:

So, preventing macular degeneration sounds like just one more great reason to eat a colorful variety of vegetables every day just like we teach in Dr. Jo’s Natural Healing Cookbook.

About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

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