16/04/2024

Macular Degeneration: Nutrients for Keeping your Eyes in Tip-Top Shape.


Vision loss and nutrition may not usually be the go-to topics, however this blog focuses on the ins and outs of why eyesight might deteriorate. 

Most importantly, we tell you how you can help save the quality of your vision over time, with specific nutrition! 

Deterioration in eye health happens due to multiple factors, and there are many ways to protect them such as correct lighting, limiting screentime and avoiding environmental pollution. On top of this, the food you eat and the supplements you take impact this protection. 


What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects your central vision, by blurring it. 

It occurs as the part of your eye responsible for detailed, direct vision, known as the macula, becomes damaged with age. 

The macula is located in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of your eye. However, it is possible to slow this progression. It has been proven that macular degeneration is also more likely to occur in those who are light-coloured in their irises. 


Dry Eye Syndrome 

Dry eye syndrome causes daily discomfort and can increase the risk of infection and damage to the eye surface. Eye drops donate help long-term. Only real tears can fully nourish and protect the eyes. 

Scientists have discovered that maqui berry extract, taken orally, dramatically boosts the body's natural tear production. In a pilot study, this extract provided a 72% improvement in dry eye symptoms in just two months. 

A controlled clinical trial confirmed that it boosted tear production by 89% and reduced eye discomfort and eye fatigue in a matter of weeks. 

Deterioration rates are rising 

Increased use of digital devices like smartphones and computers, which reduce blinking and speed up tear evaporation, may contribute to more frequent dry eye symptoms (1).

Factors like these can lead to dry eyes:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Certain medications
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Surgeries like cataracts or laser eye surgery
  • Air conditioning
  • Hormonal changes
  • Nutritional deficits (such as vitamin A deficiency)(2)

Eye drops often fail to provide adequate relief or address the underlying causes, as they can't fully mimic the natural composition of tears. 


Nutrients that can Improve Eye ealth 

Some nutrients to improve eye health are:  

Some of these and others are expanded upon in this blog post.

Cyanidin-3-glucoside 

Cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G), flavonoid found in dark-coloured berries (2,4), can enhance night vision. It shows promise in protecting corneal and retinal cells against bacterial damage, inflammation (5), and oxidative stress according to recent research (6). 

It is particularly beneficial for those already suffering from macular degeneration, commonly experiencing night vision difficulties (7). C3G enhances rhodopsin, a protein crucial for vision in low light(6), improving its function and regeneration (4,9-11).

A study found that a berry extract with C3G notably improved night vision in healthy volunteers within 30 minutes (8). When combined with other nutrients, C3G could offer comprehensive protection against age-related vision loss. 

Carotenoids 

Haven't we all heard that eating carrots allows us to see in the dark? Well, there is truth to this myth, it does aid vision; and macular health. Further, omega-3 fatty acids are not the only nutrients that help protect against eye diseases. Plant pigments like lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin, which accumulate in the retina's outer membrane, not only support the macula's structure but also protect the eyes from damaging light wavelengths. 

Studies have found that people with higher retinal carotenoid levels have lower rates of macular degeneration (9,10). Specifically, a high intake of lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of advanced macular degeneration by 41% (11). 

Moreover, saffron is beneficial in preventing early stages of macular degeneration, and alpha-carotene helps guard against the advanced stages. As mentioned above, the flavonoid cyanidin-3-glucoside has been shown to improve night vision in just 30 minutes. 

Together, these seven nutrients offer comprehensive protection for vision. 

Omega 3 

Various epidemiological studies have indicated that individuals who ingest the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids have the lowest risk of macular degeneration (12,13-18).

Observational studies suggest that increasing dietary omega-3 may slow the disease's progression (19,20). In 2021 and 2022, two significant meta-analyses were published. 

The first synthesized data from 21 clinical studies involving over 190,000 people to investigate if omega-3 from fish oil correlates with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (19).

This analysis revealed that high consumption of fish oils was associated with a 14% reduced risk of early-stage macular degeneration and a 29% lower risk of late-stage, more severe forms. 

Additional findings showed that each extra 1,000 mg of omega-3 per day decreased the risk of early-stage macular degeneration by 6% and late-stage by 22% (19). 

The studies also found protective effects in both DHA and EPA, the primary fatty acids in fish oil, especially in those with the highest intake (19).


Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Comes in Two Types (21)

1. Dry AMD: 

This is the most common form, known as atrophic AMD. It involves the thinning of the macula, which is part of the retina, as you age. 

Dry AMD progresses through three stages: early, intermediate, and late. The progression is typically slow, taking place over several years. In the late stage of dry AMD, no medical treatments are currently available. 

2. Wet AMD: 

This is the less common type but is more severe, known as advanced neovascular AMD. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid or blood, damaging the macula. 

Wet AMD can develop from any stage of dry AMD and usually leads to faster loss of vision. Unlike dry AMD, there are medical treatments available for wet AMD. 

Omega 3 helps 'Wet' AMD 

A 2022 meta-analysis focused on patients with the more severe wet form of age-related macular degeneration. It reviewed data from five studies conducted in Japan, the United States, and Europe, involving over 12,000 patients (23).

The results indicated that high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil significantly lowered the risk of this aggressive type of macular degeneration. Patients with the highest omega-3 intake experienced a remarkable 49% reduction in risk compared to those with the lowest intake (24).

The study also differentiated the effects of DHA and EPA, two types of omega-3s, finding that high levels of DHA led to a 39% lower risk of developing wet macular degeneration, while high EPA intake was associated with a 32% lower risk.

This evidence supports the protective benefits of fish oil against all forms of age-related macular degeneration, highlighting its role in maintaining eye health. 

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50, and increasing omega-3 intake is a preventive strategy supported by extensive research. 

Saffron 

Clinical studies show that saffron, derived from the crocus flower, improves vision in various eye conditions (26) like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (27,28).

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties, saffron helps preserve vision by preventing cell death (29).

In one clinical study, patients with mild to moderate age-related macular degeneration took 20 mg of saffron daily and showed improved visual function, even more so when combined with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Another study reported that saffron enhanced the light-sensing ability of retinal cells, with patients able to read an additional line on an eye chart after three months (30,31). 

Long-term use (around 14 months) of 20 mg daily not only sustained but increased retinal sensitivity and significantly improved visual acuity (32). 

Meso-zeaxanthin 

Meso-zeaxanthin is a yellow carotenoid produced from lutein in the eye and is also found in small amounts in certain foods (33). 

Individuals with macular degeneration typically have 30% less meso-zeaxanthin in their macula compared to those with healthy eyes (35). 

This deficiency might be due to insufficient dietary lutein or an inability to convert lutein to meso-zeaxanthin effectively. Supplementing with meso-zeaxanthin can help increase protective macular pigment levels (35). 

Astaxanthin 

Astaxanthin, a reddish carotenoid found in marine algae and some seafood (36,37), protects retinal cells from physical and oxidative stress in preclinical studies (36-38). 

It helps shield eye cells from UV damage and inflammation by inhibiting the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) (39). Experimental research shows astaxanthin can prevent damage from conditions like wet macular degeneration and glaucoma (40).

It is particularly beneficial for diabetic retinopathy, a common condition (36) in long-term diabetics, by preventing nerve-cell death in the retina caused by high blood sugar (36). Studies suggest that taking 6 mg of astaxanthin daily can enhance visual sharpness and overall eye health (41). 

Maqui berry 

Natural tears consist of three layers: an outer oily layer that prevents evaporation, a middle watery layer that moistens and nourishes the cornea, and an inner mucus layer that keeps tears attached to the eye. These layers are crucial for the health of the cornea and conjunctiva. 

To combat dry eye syndrome, scientists have been exploring methods to enhance the body's production of these essential tears. 

Researchers discovered that maqui berry extract, from a fruit native to Chile and Argentina, enhances natural tear production when consumed (42,43). This provides quick and sustained relief for dry, irritated eyes, helping to prevent long-term damage.  

Maqui berries contain delphinidins, bioactive pigments that protect eye structures like the tear-producing lacrimal gland by reducing free radicals, shielding cells from light damage, and restoring natural tear production. 


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References 

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