Tag Archives: blindness

How to Prevent Macular Degeneration

Remember...peanuts aren't nuts, they're legumes

Remember…peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re legumes

I saw an optometrist recently for a new eyeglass prescription and mentioned that age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) runs in my family. ARMD is the leading cause of adult blindness in the West. Thank God, I don’t have it….yet.

The optometrist suggested I start taking eye vitamins to help prevent ARMD. Popular eye vitamin preparations around here are Ocuvite and I-Caps. He said a multivitamin like Centrum might be just as effective.

UpToDate.com, a source I trust, says that supplements for prevention probably don’t work and are not recommended. Which means Centrum would be just as effective: i.e., none of them work.

Instead, UpToDate recommends regular exercise, not smoking, and relatively high consumption of leafy green vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts. Although they didn’t mention it by name, the traditional Mediterranean diet provides all of those.

On the other hand, if you already have macular degeneration (wet or dry), UpToDate recommends these supplements (probably based on the AREDS-2 study):

  • vitamin C 500 mg/day
  • vitamin E 400 mg/day
  • lutein 10 mg/day
  • zeaxanthin 1 mg/day
  • zinc 80 mg/day (as zinc oxide)
  • copper 2 mg/day (as cupric oxide)

An reasonable alternative for non-smokers and never-smokers is the standard AREDS formula. It’s the same as above except it substitutes beta carotene for lutein or zeaxanthin. You can buy both formulations over-the-counter in the U.S. pre-mixed so you don’t have to swallow a handful of pills, just one.

I was in a supermarket yesterday checking out eye vitamins and noted that Bausch and Lomb’s AREDS-2 formula costs about $10/month.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll take the optometrist’s supplement advice. Probably not. But I’ll go the diet, exercise, and non-smoking route.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Fish With Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Risk of Blindness

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65. Impaired vision precedes blindness. A recent study linked consumption of omega-3 fatty acids with 30% lower risk of developing macular degeneration. Believe me, it’s a lot better to prevent it than try to treat it once present.

(I have a couple older relatives with macular degeneration, so I pay close attention to the scientific literature.)

What’s the best source of omega-3 fatty acids? Our friend, the fish. Especially cold-water fatty fish such as tuna, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, halibut, and sea bass. A few plants are also decent sources, but our bodies don’t utilize those omega-3 fatty acids as well as they do from fish.

Note that both the Advanced Mediterranean Diet and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet feature fish.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: SanGiovanni, J.P., et al. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: AREDS report 30, a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90 (2009): 1,601-1,607. First published October 7, 2009. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27594