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Healthy Diet May Help Seniors' Vision

Antioxidants in Foods May Be a Key in Cutting Risk of Macular Degeneration
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 27, 2005 -- A healthy diet may be a feast for aging eyes.

A new Dutch study links diets rich in four antioxidants -- beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc -- to lower odds of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The study by Redmer van Leeuwen, MD, PhD, and colleagues appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

About AMD

AMD is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries, writes van Leeuwen, who works at Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

AMD affects the macula, located in the center of the retina. In the late stages of AMD, people can't read, recognize faces, drive, or move freely, the researchers write.

They note that AMD becomes much more common with age, and that one in 10 white adults age 80 and older has late-stage AMD.

Diet Study

The Dutch scientists studied more than 4,100 healthy older adults in a middle-class suburb of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The study started in the early 1990s. Back then, none of the participants had AMD. All were at least 55 years old from a suburb of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Participants completed surveys about the foods they typically ate and any supplements they were taking. They were also interviewed by a dietitian.

The data were used to estimate participants' intake of various antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds found naturally in a wide range of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Participants' eyes were also screened every three or four years for AMD. They were followed for an average of eight years.

During that time, 560 were found to have AMD. Most had early stages of the disease.

Dietary Difference

Four antioxidants -- beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc -- may have teamed up for better eye health.

People with above-average intakes of all four antioxidants were 35% less likely to develop AMD during the study.

Vitamin E and zinc stood out. Both were linked to lower odds of getting AMD. The more vitamin E or zinc people ate, the lower their risk of AMD, the study shows.

The researchers adjusted for other factors that might make AMD more likely.

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