Eyes - Macular Degeneration
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macula is the area of the retina where images are focused. It is the portion of the eye responsible for fine vision. Age-related degeneration of the macula is the leading cause of severe visual loss in the United States in persons aged fifty-five years or older.
Individuals with macular degeneration may experience blurred vision; straight objects may appear distorted or bent; there may be a dark spot near or around the center of the visual field; and while reading parts of words may be missing. People with macular degeneration generally have good peripheral vision; they just can’t see what is directly in front of them.
What causes Macular Degeneration?
The major risk factors for macular degeneration are smoking, aging, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and high blood pressure. Apparently, the degeneration is a result of free-radical damage, similar to the type of damage that induces cataracts. However, decreased blood and oxygen supply to the retina is the prelude and key factor leading to macular degeneration.
What dietary factors are important in Macular Degeneration?
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk for ARMD. Presumably, this protection is the result of increased intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. However, various “non-essential” food components, such as the carotenes lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene, along with flavonoids, are proving to be even more significant in protecting against ARMD than traditional nutritional antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. The macula, especially the central portion (the fovea), owes its yellow color to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. These yellow carotenes function in preventing oxidative damage to the area of the retina responsible for fine vision and obviously play a central role in protecting against the development of macular degeneration.
Dietary sources of these carotenes include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbages, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, red peppers, tomatoes for their lycopene, and corn, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots for other carotenoids.