Low levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found specifically in the macula of the eye. Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine found that patients with AMD had significant benefits from supplementing with 4 mg or more of these carotenoids per day. In some patients, AMD was completely reversed.
The study compared the macular pigment levels of 138 volunteers with healthy eyes with that of 63 patients with AMD. Head researcher Dr Paul Bernstein was able to determine that macular carotenoid levels decline with age, reaching the lowest point at age 60 when AMD incidence begins to rise. He also saw a 32% difference in macular health between elderly patients who supplemented with lutein and elderly patients who did not.
“As a safeguard, patients (showing) visual loss from AMD should consider supplementing their diets with at least 4 mg of lutein,” said Dr Bernstein.
Other nutrients that may protect against AMD include selenium, zinc and bilberry.
Source: Ophthalmol 2002; 109:1780-1787