Ever since macular degeneration was identified as a disease of the retina, there have been ongoing debates among ophthalmologists, optometrists and researchers regarding the role of nutrition in protecting against the disease and possibly slowing its progress. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study(AREDS) found that supplementation with antioxidants plus zinc decreased the likelihood of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration in some people. It also showed that for 13% of patients with a different genetic profile (2 high-risk CFH alleles and 0 ARMS2 risk alleles) the standard AREDS formula was detrimental and accelerated vision loss much faster. But can diet and supplements prevent or slow it? Researchers are now suggesting that the Mediterranean Diet is a good one to follow.
For example, there are a number of long-term studies that have been tracking the health, lifestyles, and habits of tens of thousands of people in relation to the incidence of cardiovascular disease. When AMD shows up in these studies, the individual’s dietary and nutritional habits over time may shed light on the origins and development of the disease in these specific cases. The AREDS I study took 10 years and resulted in the AREDS vitamin containing antioxidants and zinc. AREDS II is now finished, using the original AREDS formula plus variations using less zinc, adding lutein and zeaxanthin.
Recent research, focused on changes in the retina, suggests that the progress of AMD could be slowed if patients were treated with appropriate dietary supplements. Since moderate intake of vitamins is not harmful, many physicians offer patients the option of taking them in case they may prove helpful. Others prescribe particular regimens to their patients and feel strongly about their potential.