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Macular degeneration is the gradual loss of vision and it can be quite devastating for the quality of life as patients age. Various treatments are available that can help but simple dietary modifications can go a long way to helping you never need them.

Macular degeneration is a disease where photo-receptors surrounding the retina are gradually destroyed and patients are no longer able to focus on objects with vision sharpness [1]. Risk factors for this condition include long-standing hypertension, smoking, being obese and female and being Caucasian [2]. It is a disease that is quite common in modern society but with advancements in diagnostic tests, it is becoming less frequent year by year.

Current estimates predict that now only 6.5 percent of the population is suffering the disease compared to over 10 percent two decades ago [3]. Current prevalence rates, however, are no laughing matter and patients suffering from this disease such seek immediate macular degeneration treatment to prevent long-term complications like irreversible blindness from occurring.

Treatment usually consists of passing a laser beam through your eye chamber and destroying vessels to keep the problem from getting worse [4]. Understandably, most people are not eager to have this type of operation due to the fear of something going wrong so if you find yourself at a younger age and with several of these risk factors, dietary interventions can go a long way to preventing you from developing macular degeneration in the first place. In this article, I will cover 3 food categories that you can consider in order to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration. 

Foods High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin Carotenoids 

When building your diet to reduce your chances to develop macular degeneration, foods that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids are what you should be focusing on. These compounds have been found to be extremely important for eye health in numerous studies. An even better thing about these food groups is the fact that you do not need to rely on a long list programmed into your smart phone to help remember what foods to pick up in the grocery store, all you need to do is remember 3 simple colors.

Foods that have the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are orange, green and yellow. Some common foods that are known to have high levels of these essential elements are cantaloupes, pastas, carrots, peppers, salmon and eggs. [5]

Just to prove how effective these essential elements can be in promoting healthy eyes, one study investigated the effects of diet on a total of over 100,000 patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration. In this group, about 70 percent were suffering from mild forms of AMD while 30 percent were suffering from severe forms of AMD. It was determined in this investigation that if patients ate diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, their risk for developing more severe forms of AMD was reduced by over 40 percent.  Other forms of carotenoids were found to also reduce the risk of worsening your AMD but risk reduction was only found to be around 20 percent. This easily depicts how significant foods rich in these essential elements can improve your macular degeneration and promote healthy vision.[6]

Watch Your Fat Consumption 

Another consideration for patients suffering from macular degeneration that patients need to implement in their macular degeneration treatment is to watch the level of dietary fats that they consume. Studies show that patients who routinely eat foods that are high in monosaturated, polysaturated fats, and total fats routinely had higher levels of AMD compared to the normal population. Yes, even those patients eating high amounts of fish were found to have high levels of omega-6 and omega-3 and tended to score more poorly on AMD outlook studies if fish was consumed at an above-average level. [7]

Before you sharpen your pitchforks to go storm the family doctor's office for telling you fish was only good for you all your life, take a moment to consider this. Many vitamins and minerals that we ingest daily fall into one of two categories: fat-soluble or fat-insoluble forms. This means that fat will either help digest the vitamins and minerals or they will be resistant. Unfortunately for us, lutein and zeaxanthin are two essential nutrients that are fat-soluble and if we already are eating high amounts of fat in our diet, we may digest these compounds too quickly before they can have an obvious effect on our eyes. That is why it is important to try to avoid fatty foods when eating to treat your macular degeneration to help give the good foods time to make a difference. Studies show that patients who routinely eat high levels of fish tend to have lower levels of carotenoids and luteins due to this hastened digestion.  

When consuming fish at more average levels of consumption, benefits of increased omega-3 fatty acids far outweigh the potential risks of too many fats in your diet. Omega-3 is an essential compound in generating and maintaining photo-receptors in the eye so patients are encouraged to eat a sufficient amount of fish to replenish low levels of omega-3 as the eye attempts to regenerate the damaged photo-receptors [9]. 

Foods High in Antioxidants 

The last category of foods that patients should strive to implement in their daily routine would be foods high in anti-oxidants. These foods can be quite beneficial for patients who are suffering from macular degeneration because they can help prevent the total death of photo-receptors in the eye and prolong sharp vision. Some foods to consider that fall under this category include forest berries, tomato products, legumes, kale and broccoli. These foods all have high levels of Vitamin C, E and A which can help improve the health of the eye.[10]

Vitamin E, in particular, has the most promising applications to promoting a healthy set of eyes. In one study, it was determined that patients who routinely take Vitamin E supplementation spare themselves from the development of cataracts more often than those not utilizing supplementation. [11] Its role in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration is not as conclusive but many of these studies were designed poorly preventing accurate conclusions from being drawn. A reason that is may be the case is that Vitamin E is more beneficial for night-vision and seeing in darker conditions. What is damaged at the start in AMD is the photo-receptors responsible for seeing colors so it may not have immediate benefits because there is no issue with seeing black and white objects yet in the disease history. 

All in all, you should now be more comfortable treating your macular degeneration through diet and following necessary steps to prevent this disease from affecting you. 

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