This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent damage to your vision. A 2005 review of research pointed out that 13 separate studies found that there was a statistically significant tie between the habit of smoking and the development of macular degeneration. The risk in smokers was two to three times higher than in non-smokers.6 A 2015 study identified damage and inflammation caused by smoking to several layers of the macula: the pigmented layer, Bruch’s membrane, the choroidal stroma.7 Additional studies in 2016 verify this finding. Learn more about research on smoking and macular degeneration.
Protect against blue light. Wear sunglasses (wear wraparound sunglasses especially if you have been diagnosed with AMD) that are UV resistant to protect your eyes against damage from blue light.
Leafy greens. Make sure your diet includes plenty of fresh, preferably organic, dark leafy greens. These vegetables are rich in carotenoids, the colored pigments that your eye needs, especially lutein and zeathanthin. Even if you don’t like vegetables such as collards, kale and spinach, you can add them to soups, puree them in green drinks, juice them with other fruits and vegetables, or add them to other greens in salads. Many studies report that the nutrients found in these healthy vegetables lower the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Low fat diet. The Western diet, high in fats, is associated with a higher risk of macular degeneration. Researchers have found that a high fat diet gives rise to weak gut microbiota resulting in poor digestion and long-range, low-grade inflammation in the entire body. These factors appear to be the source of high rates of AMD in men who are overweight.
Daily juicing. A great way to get the nutrients from leafy greens is juicing of vegetables and fruits (preferably organic). See our juicing recipe to support the health of the macula.
AREDS. The nutrients specified in the 2001 AREDS (which investigated vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc) were found to reduce the risk of advanced AMD by about 25%. The AREDS formula includes: 500mg vitamin C; 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene, 80mg zinc, 2 mg copper.
AREDS2. The nutrients tested in the 2006 (which added omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin to, and reduced zinc and beta-carotene in the AREDS formula), were found to further reduce the risk of advanced AMD. As a result of AREDS2 the formula was revised to: 500mg vitamin C; 400 IU vitamin E, 10mg lutein, 2mg zeaxanthin, 350mg DHA, 650mg EPA, 25mg zinc and no beta-carotene.
Zinc. A note for vegetarians: The AREDs studies found that zinc is necessary for a healthy macula: 11mg daily for men and 8mg daily for women. Zinc is abundant in meat and seafood. It is also abundant in nuts, grains and legumes, but not in a readily absorbable form. The body does not store zinc well, so zinc supplementation might be needed for vegetarians and vegans.14 Consult your medical provider.
Other nutrients Other research has determined that astaxanthin10, and meso-zeaxanthin, other potent antioxidants, are important. Vitamin C has been found to enhance the absorption of lutein.
Resveratrol has been found to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in the advanced form of macular degeneration, choroidal neovascularization.16, 17
Omega 3 fatty acids. Many research studies have established that omega 3 fatty acids lower the risk of macular degeneration.8 Omega 3s have the ability to regulate formation of extraneous blood vessels that distort vision.9 Eating fish is a great way to increase omega 3 in your diet.
Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio. The standard western diet tends to be very high in omega 6 fatty acids, with a ratio of about 10-20:1. The Mediterranean diet has a higher proportion of omega-3; the ratio is about 4-5:1. This ratio is associated with a protective effect against the severe neovascular form of ARMD.15
Vitamin D3. Low levels of vitamin D3 in the body are associated with increases in macular degeneration symptoms. D3 has anti-inflammation and anti-angiogenic capacities and has the greatest benefit in patients where the genetic risk is greatest.11 Because D3 has an important role in the immune system and aging process it is important in age-related conditions such as macular degeneration where the retina suffers age-related damage.
Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision. Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-3728.