Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. Global projections estimate that 196 million people will suffer from AMD globally. Proper nutrient intake can minimize risk.
Initial symptoms of AMD can include blurry areas or dark spots in vision, especially in the central portion. Sometimes, no initial symptoms occur. As the disease advances, daily activities such as reading can become challenging. Eventually, AMD causes central vision loss. The only way to confirm AMD in its early stages is through regular eye exams by a doctor.
There is no cure for AMD. However, research shows that specific nutrients can help slow disease progression.
The likelihood of AMD rises with age. Between ages 50 and 59, the risk of developing the condition is only two percent, but after age 75, the risk increases to nearly 30 percent.2 Other risk factors include family members with AMD, light-colored eyes and smoking.
AMD affects the macula, the small area in the center of the eye’s retina. The retina is made up of millions of light-sensing cells. The macula enables a person to see straight ahead and with clear detail. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of vision can be blurred, dark or distorted. AMD can cause damage to one or both eyes
To diagnose AMD, a doctor will examine the eyes and look for tiny deposits beneath the retina. Called “drusen,” these spots may be a normal part of aging and may not cause problems. If they become larger, about the width of a human hair, or clump together, they are a sign of early AMD. At early stages of the disease, drusen might not create a noticeable change in vision.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that often occur together in food accumulate in the macula giving its yellow color. Science indicate that they work collaboratively to help protect eyes.
Studies have found that lutein and zeaxanthin from diet and supplementation can increase macular pigment density to protect eyes from excess blue light, the type of visible light that can potentially cause damage in the eye.3 The human body can’t make these nutrients and must obtain them from food or supplements.
The largest study to-date to examine the effects of nutritional supplementation on AMD was the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), conducted by the US National Eye Institute. More than 4,000 people participated in the 5-year trial.
Researchers tested different nutritional formulas and found that lutein and zeaxanthin (in place of beta-carotene) reduced the risk of progression to advanced AMD by 18 percent. In addition, results showed a 26 percent reduction in the risk of progression to AMD beyond the effects of the previous standard of care in people with the lowest diet intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin compared to those at the highest intakes.
The following nutrients were tested in the final formula:
AREDS2 proved the effectiveness of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin, in conjunction with vitamin C, E, zinc and copper, to lower the risk of AMD in an at-risk population.4,5
1. Wong W (20140 Global prevalence of age-related macular degeneration and disease burden projection for 2020 and 2040: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. Vol 2.
2. BrightFocus Foundation. https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/article/age-related-macular-facts-figures
3. Arunkumar R. (2018) What do we know about the macular pigment in AMD: the past, the present, and the future. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
4. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group (2013). JAMA. 309: 2005-2015.
5. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group (2014). JAMA Ophthalmol. 132: 142-149.