October 19, 2008
Low Antioxidants Create Eye Disease Risk

Get more antioxidants from food in order to slow your eye aging due to sun exposure.

A European study suggests that the combination of low plasma levels of antioxidants and blue light exposure from the sun is associated with certain forms of the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a report in the October issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"The retina is vulnerable to the damaging effects of light," the authors write as background information in the article. "While wavelengths in the UV radiation range are largely absorbed by the cornea and lens, the retina is exposed to visible light, including blue light." Animal and laboratory studies suggest blue light may damage the retina and contribute to the development of AMD, which occurs when the area of the retina (macula) responsible for sharp vision deteriorates.

Antioxidant enzymes—including vitamins C and E, the carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) and zinc—may protect against the harmful effects of blue light on the retina. Astrid E. Fletcher, Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues measured levels of these nutrients in the blood of 4,753 older adults (average age 73.2) who were part of the European Eye Study. Participants also were interviewed about their lifetime sunlight exposure and had photographs taken of their retinas to detect AMD.

Of the 4,400 participants with complete information available, 2,117 did not have AMD, 101 had neovascular (advanced, involving the formation of new blood vessels) AMD and 2,182 had early-stage AMD. Overall, there was no association between blue light exposure and neovascular or early AMD. However, blue light exposure was associated with neovascular AMD in the one-fourth of individuals with lowest antioxidant levels. "In particular, the combination of blue light exposure in the presence of low levels of zeaxanthin, alpha-tocopherol [vitamin E] and vitamin C was associated with a nearly four-fold odds ratio of neovascular AMD," the authors write.

The zeaxanthin comes from kale, collard greens, and other green leafy vegetables. Those same veggies are good sources of vitamin K which might slow brain aging due to myelin decay. Vegetables are good for you. But you already knew that. What would it take to get you to eat more vegetables?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 October 19 10:43 PM  Aging Diet Eye Studies

Lou Pagnucco said at October 21, 2008 6:46 AM:

I wonder whether drugs/nutrients (e.g., enbrel, trental, aspirin, quercetin, ginger, curcumin...) that interfere with the key players in inflammatory process like tumor necrosis factor-alpha, phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenases, etc., are beneficial for macular degeneration.

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