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Here's how to protect your eyesight and retina from macular degeneration

Here's how to protect your eyesight and retina from macular degeneration

July 07, 2022
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Science has discovered the mix of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for retinal health and to safeguard vision, counteracting the risk of macular degeneration. This combination of retinal-saving substances has been shown to be more effective than the treatments used until recently, and is also safer, as emerges from a very recent scientific research published a few weeks ago in the journal Jama Ophthalmology by a team from the National Eye Institute, Maryland, USA, at the end of a ten-year study (Chew et al, JAMA Ophthalmol, Jun 2022).

Retina and macula

The retina is a membrane that lines the inner surface of the eye and is the fulcrum of the process that leads to vision. At the center of the retina is the macula, the part responsible for distinct vision. The macula itself can undergo degeneration with progressive death of retinal cells and consequent gradual reduction, if not loss, of vision. Indeed, macular degeneration is considered the most common cause of blindness in the Western world. Among the possible risk factors of macular degeneration we certainly find advancing age, but also excessive and unprotected exposure to sunlight, smoking and hypertension. While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, it is possible to reduce the risk of this disease developing or to slow its progression.

Supplements against macular degeneration, the study

Over the years, scientists had developed a supplement for the health of the retina, capable of slowing down macular degeneration. The supplement was composed of 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 2 mg of copper, 80 mg of zinc and 15 mg of beta-carotene. The supplement had shown its effectiveness in slowing the progression of macular degeneration. However, the supplement contained beta carotene, which in non-smokers does not cause problems while in smokers, on the other hand, it can increase the risk of lung cancer. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that two other antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, have been shown to be protective for the retina. The researchers then tried replacing beta carotene with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. Well, what emerged was that the new supplement was found to be capable of slowing the progression of macular degeneration. Not only that, the new supplement containing lutein and zeaxanthin has been shown to be even more effective than the previous supplement containing beta carotene. In fact, the researchers followed the volunteers for a good ten years and those who took the supplement with lutein and zeaxanthin had a further 20% decrease in the risk of macular degeneration progressing to more severe stages than those who had taken the supplement with beta carotene. In addition, the new supplement has not been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer, thus resulting in a treatment designed for everyone.

The diet that saves the retina

These substances, useful for protecting the retina, are also found in some foods. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin are contained in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and lettuce, as well as in egg yolk. Vitamin C is contained in citrus fruits, kiwis, mangoes and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes and peppers. Vitamin E is found in oil seeds, dried fruit such as hazelnuts, peanuts but also in vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Legumes, mushrooms, bitter chocolate, nuts and seeds contain copper while zinc is contained in bitter chocolate, brewer's yeast, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, crab and lobster.

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