What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, AMD, is a condition which affects the eye and involves the deterioration of the retina, the light sensing cells in the central area of vision, to a point when one’s vision can be seriously impaired or even lead to blindness. The area in the centre is called the macula, the part of the eye which enables a person to carry out daily activities such as reading and driving. The most distinguishing aspect of macular degeneration is round spots covering the person’s field of vision so that it is difficult to see things that are straight ahead. The peripheral vision remains unchanged which means that people can still continue with routine daily tasks.
There are two types of macular degeneration; wet and dry. Wet macular degeneration occurs due to abnormal formation of blood vessels in the eye; dry macular degeneration, affecting almost 90% of the people suffering from macular degeneration, is due to deposits of debris in the retina which would normally be carried away by the blood vessels. There may be several reasons for this type of macular degeneration which include:
- inadequate blood circulation in the retina
- premature ageing of the cells responsible for sight possibly due to genetic factors
- dietary factors
Affecting mostly people in the 50’s and above, the effects of macular degeneration cannot be reversed. However you may be able to prevent macular degeneration if you quit smoking, maintain healthy weight, eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables on a daily basis and take an appropriate supplement if you have a family history of age-related macular degeneration.
The science around macular degeneration
Through advances in medicine over the last few decades, blindness associated with cataracts has virtually been eliminated. With reference to macular degeneration, I believe we are entering a period when advances in treatments, whether by supplements or otherwise, may result in halting the progression of this disease.
Over the last 25 years, researchers have discovered that people who ate spinach, collard green and certain other vegetables had lower rates, up to 41% reduction, of age-related macular degeneration. Upon studying the ingredients found in these vegetables, the most likely constituents were thought to be lutein and zeaxanthin. This was substantiated by the fact that lutein and zeaxanthin blood levels were found to be low in sufferers of macular degeneration. Another reason why scientists were so certain that lutein and zeaxanthin were the crucial nutrients is because levels of these compounds are severely depleted in the macula of those suffering from this disease.
If all people had to do to prevent macular degeneration is to eat more spinach or vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, then macular degeneration would in theory disappear as an age related disorder. Unfortunately, macular degeneration is still the leading cause of blindness even in those with high consumption of spinach.
Whilst we know that lutein and zeaxanthin definitely help to prevent macular degeneration, scientists questioned whether these nutrients could help prevent the worsening of macular degeneration after it occurs. The results of a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Opthalmology, involving 102,000 people aged 50 years and above and carried out over the last 20 years concluded that those with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin had a 41% lower risk of further progression to advanced macular degeneration. The researchers also found a 31% lower risk of progression in those who consumed alpha-carotene.
Overlooked in the prevention of macular degeneration is a little-known carotenoid called meso-zeaxanthin. An autopsy of healthy eyes shows that the macula is composed of roughly 50% lutein, 25% zeaxanthin and 25% meso-zeaxanthin. An autopsy study of donated eyes of both sufferers and non-sufferers of macular degeneration shows a 30% reduction in meso-zeaxanthin in those with age-related macular degeneration. Unlike lutein and zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin is not found in our diet and instead is obtained by the conversion of lutein into meso-zeaxanthin. One reason for this deficiency in the macula region is the lack of ingested lutein and the other is the fact that as we age, we do not have sufficient enzymes which convert lutein into meso-zeaxanthin. What we do know is that meso-zeaxanthin intake by supplements has been shown to increase macular pigment levels and macular density.
A supplement for macular degeneration
Age related macular degeneration currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and it is estimated that this figure will triple by 2025. With this in mind and with the fact that many of us either do not get sufficient lutein in our diet or simply do not have the enzymes to convert lutein into meso-zeaxanthin, it might be prudent to take MacuGuard Ocular Support with Saffron by Life Extension. MacuGuard Ocular Support provides lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin and alpha carotene all of which are required in the formation of the macular pigment and for helping to increase the density of the macula. Unique to this supplement is the addition of Saffron.
Saffron has been shown to improve vision in those with early age-related macular degeneration. Saffron appears to protect and prevent the breakdown of the light-sensitive cells of the macula. Whilst rapid and meaningful visual improvements were experienced within three months, scientists also found that these benefits were greater the longer you took Saffron in a dose of 20 mg per day. This 20 mg dose is found in MacuGuard Ocular Support.
Scientists believe that a diet rich in vegetables containing lutein coupled with supplements containing lutein and meso-zeaxanthin should result in lower incidences of age-related macular degeneration.
Steps to prevent macular degeneration
Apart from taking a supplement such as MacuGuard Ocular Support, the following steps may prevent or slow macular degeneration and include:
- Stop smoking. Female cigarette smokers are twice more likely to develop macular degeneration.
- Eat dark green vegetables especially spinach.
- Eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements.
- Exercise regularly and maintain healthy weight.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within normal limits.
- Wear sunglasses to block UV light which is known to cause damage to the eye.
- Have your eyes examined regularly to check the health of the retina and macula.