Lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc reduce risk for macular degeneration

Those whose diets contained the most lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc had the least risk for going blind in the center of the field of vision, a condition known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, followed 2,454 men and women who had entered the Blue Mountain Eye Study between 1992 and 1994 at the minimum age of 49. Doctors reexamined participants at five years, at 10 years or at both times, taking photographs of the retina and collecting data on risk factors including age, gender and smoking habits. Scientists also measured nutrients in the diet including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cyptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, vitamins A, C and E, iron and zinc.

“Those who consumed the most zinc were 44% less likely to have AMD.” Compared to those who consumed the least lutein and zeaxanthin, those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin were 65% less likely to develop “wet” AMD, where abnormal, leaky blood vessels form in the eye. Those who consumed above-average amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin were 34% less likely to develop early signs of AMD (reticular drusen), compared to those below average. Those who consumed the most zinc were 44% less likely to have any type of AMD compared to those who consumed less zinc.

Doctors noted that the results supported the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), a large multi-center U.S. study funded by the National Eye Institute that followed 4,700 participants and found that antioxidants protect against AMD. 

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