An Eye on Nutrition: Guard against macular degeneration

An Eye on Nutrition: Guard against macular degeneration

By Dr. Bruce Rosenthal

By Dr. Bruce Rosenthal

Chief of Low Vision Programs,

Lighthouse International

People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the country’s most common cause of vision loss, can live full, satisfying lives with professional guidance, the use of appropriate adaptive and low vision devices, and by practicing an ongoing wellness program, including proper diet and exercise. Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, chief of Low Vision Programs, Lighthouse International and chairman of the AMD Alliance International, advises persons at risk for macular degeneration — and anyone interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle — to initiate a nutritionally beneficial diet, beginning early in life.

Dr. Rosenthal offers the following practical nutritional recommendations to help decrease your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration:

• Vitamin and anti-oxidant supplements may reduce your risk of vision loss! A dietary supplement containing high doses of the antioxidant vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and zinc, provide the first effective treatment for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as revealed by a breakthrough clinical study on age-related eye disease study (AREDS), conducted by the National Eye Institute. What’s more, AREDS reports that specific formulations of these dietary supplements can reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent for individuals with moderate changes from macular degeneration.

• Before embarking on a vitamin supplement program, consult with your eye care professional.

• If you still smoke cigarettes, now is the time to stop. Smoke restricts the blood flow throughout the body and interferes with the eye’s ability to cleanse waste matter. Furthermore, smokers have a 50 percent greater risk of developing advanced AMD than people who do not smoke.

• Maintain a diet low in fat for good eye health. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can lead to fatty plaque deposits in the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow and increase the risk of AMD. Using a cookbook with recipes high in anti-oxidants will help maintain a healthy, low-fat, diet.

• It’s not just carrots. Other good foods to eat for the eye include: corn, kiwi, pumpkin, zucchini squash, yellow squash, red grapes, green peas, cucumber, butternut squash, green bell pepper, celery, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and dried apricots. Tomato and tomato products may also benefit the eyes.

• Eat the freshest and brightest fruits and vegetables. Pick the most colorful vegetables and fruits you can find—red, dark green, orange, or yellow. These foods play a key role in keeping your eyes healthy.

• Be sure to eat the dark green, leafy vegetables. These vegetables include spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens.

If you or anyone you know has a vision impairment and would like information about nutrition, in addition to information on vision loss and how to locate vision rehabilitation services in your area and other professional referrals, call Lighthouse International’s toll-free number at 1-800-829-0500, or visit the website at:

Vision rehabilitation professionals, including low-vision doctors, social workers, rehabilitation teachers, and orientation and mobility instructors, provide individualized instruction and guidance to achieve your personal goals. They work with people who are blind or partially sighted, as well as with family and friends, to improve the overall quality of life.

Lighthouse International is a leading resource worldwide on vision impairment and vision rehabilitation. Through its pioneering work in vision rehabilitation services, education, research and advocacy, Lighthouse International enables people of all ages who are blind or partially sighted to lead independent and productive lives. Founded in 1905 and headquartered in New York, Lighthouse International is a not-for-profit organization, and depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations.

Dr. Bruce P. Rosenthal is chairman, AMD Alliance International, and chief of Low Vision Programs at Lighthouse International. He is also the co-author of Living Well With Macular Degeneration (NAL, April 2001). Dr. Rosenthal has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad.

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