Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten
australiaphen375.com

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Symptoms: Gradual development of a dark spot at the centre of the visual field; loss of colour vision; difficulty judging distances.

Eat more spinach, curly kale, spring greens, collard greens for the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

AMD – Age-related Macular Degeneration – is the most common cause of visual impairment in the west. Although seldom leading to total blindness it can progress to the stage where only the vaguest peripheral vision is possible. Pouring a drink into your glass becomes hit and miss, judging steps and kerbstones is difficult, threading a needle impossible. Rates of blindness and impaired eyesight have plummeted over the past 20 years in the developed world. But macular degeneration has replaced cataract as the leading cause of blindness in rich countries, according to an article published online this month in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

A study by Dr. Johanna Seddon at Harvard examined the diets of people with macular degeneration and compared them with similar people without it – their conclusion – people with a higher consumption of carotenoids have a much lower risk of getting this disease. Two very special carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, seem to be the most directly linked with prevention of AMD.

This didn't surprise Dr. Seddon and her colleagues since lutein and zeaxanthin are the most important pigments in the macula, they are powerful antioxidants and filter out the damaging blue light which causes degeneration of the macula. Many foods which are rich in beta-carotene do not contain the two special carotenoids, so in order for optimum protection against AMD you need a regular consumption of the listed foods.

Until recently taking vitamin supplements did not appear to reduce the incidence of this dreadful disease, presumably because the pills did not contain the special carotenoids. Up to the minute supplements with both lutein and zeaxanthin are now available and are best taken with a little olive oil or with oily food. They're both fat soluble and the consumption of small amounts of oil stimulates the release of bile and improves their absorption.

There's no evidence as yet, that taking supplements has any effect on the existing condition, but here's one example of prevention being better than cure. Eating the right greens can reduce the risk of AMD by almost 60% – if you can't bear to eat them, at least take the right supplement.

Kale
Something of a foodie trend right now, kale is also known for its vision-protecting abilities. Not only does it contain a potent mix of cancer-fighting antioxidants and vitamins, it is loaded with both lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases. So join the throng of supporters and add kale to your list of salad ingredients.

Spinach
Well-known for being Popeye's vegetable of choice, spinach isn't just good for iron. It also packs a healthy punch of lutein and zeaxanthin to keep your eyes in tip-top shape. Cooking these iron-packed greens reportedly helps your body better absorb the lutein, and since that takes seconds, there's no excuse not to add it to your evening meal.

Eggs
These little shell-wrapped wonders are not just a healthy way to start the day, but are brim full of nutrients, including protein, lutein, vitamin E and omega-3s, to mention a few. Go to work on one and it might just help to combat that all-day screen glare.

Oranges
They're not the only fruit, but they are jam-packed with vitamin C, which, according to the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study, could help to improve the health of your eye tissue. Researchers believe a good dose of vitamin C may aid in the regeneration of other important antioxidants too, so add a luscious glass of freshly-squeezed to your eggy breakfast and you'll be doing your eyes a big favour.

Sweetcorn
It's sweet, easy to cook and delicious smothered in butter, and it's also good for your eyes. While it's not quite in the same league as kale when it comes to lutein and zeaxanthin, research published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry revealed that cooking this particular veggie delight actually increased the amount of said nutrients. So whether frozen, fresh or tinned, don't be afraid to add corn to your soups, stews and casseroles.

 

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