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Eye degeneration

Vitamins Slow Eye Degeneration in Senior Citizens

Friday, June 26, 2009 by: Michael Jolliffe
Tags: eye degeneration, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A specific combination of vitamins and other nutrients may significantly slow down the rate of sight loss in Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a major cause of blindness in the elderly, according to new research conducted at Queen`s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A team of scientists led by Professor of Ophthalmology Usha Chakravarthy discovered that supplements containing Vitamin C and E, the mineral zinc, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids found in yellow fruits and dark green leafy vegetables respectively), given to 400 senior citizens, could not only slow degeneration but could also lead to improved sight and sharper vision. [1]

"These findings are important because this is the first randomized controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigments," said Professor Chakravarthy.

The current research, carried out at Queen`s Centre of Vision and Vascular Science, has built on findings at the University of Sydney and the National Eye Institute at Bethesda, Maryland suggesting that nutritional intervention could slow the rate of degeneration by as much as 25%.

Professor Chakravarthy, who is also a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Royal Hospital in Belfast, cited the economic impact of AMD as being an important motivation behind carrying out the study.

"Late AMD causes severe sight loss and has a huge economic impact both in terms of the effects of sight loss itself and in terms of the expensive treatments that are needed to deal with the condition."

According to research led by Dr Gary Brown of the Center for Value-Based Medicine in Pennsylvania, and published in the December 2005 edition of Transactions of the American Ophthalmology Society, "An economic analysis based upon losses to the gross domestic product suggests that ARMD has approximately a $30 billion annual negative impact." [2]

AMD is the leading cause of sight loss for over 50s in the western world. Approximately 10% of 66 to 74 year-olds will have some degree of the condition, with the prevalence increasing to 30% in 75 to 85 year-olds. The eye-health organization Prevent Blindness America estimates that 13 million Americans have evidence of macular degeneration.

Symptoms include blurred or distorted vision, black spots and difficulty distinguishing between colors. Lifestyle factors linked to AMD include smoking, excessive sun exposure and a high intake of saturated fat. Currently, the most common treatments for the condition include drugs such as Thalidomide or Lucentis, laser eye procedures and surgery.

However, the latest study is one of a handful of recent trials to suggest that these particular vitamins, carotenoids and other natural dietary components may be equally effective in helping to prevent the progression of the disease. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study, in which vitamins A, C, E, as well zinc and copper, were taken by thousands of trial participants followed over the course of several years, produced significant improvements in the condition. [3] Lutein and zeaxanthin alone could also have "significant therapeutic effect" according to the Veterans LAST study, published in 2004. [4]

Additionally, a single serving of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or trout was found to prevent the occurrence of AMD, said a 2000 study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology. [5]

[1] Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2009 Annual Meeting: Abstract 1257. Presented May 4, 2009.

[2] Brown, GC et al. The Burden of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Value-Based-Medicine Analysis. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2005 December; 103: 173-186.

[3] Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct; 119(10):1417-36.

[4] Richer, S et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry - Journal of the American Optometric Association. 2004 April; 75: 4. 216-229.

[5] Smith, W et al. Dietary fat and fish intake and age-related maculopathy. Archives of Ophthalmology. 2000 March. 118: 401-04.

About the author

Michael Jolliffe is a freelance writer based in Oxford, UK.

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