It wasn’t just your mother telling you to eat carrots for better vision. People have known for centuries that certain foods can be good for your eyesight, including 16th Century Spanish explorers who carried chili peppers on voyages to help with night vision. Your mom and the explorers were smart: those chili peppers contained beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and B6, and folic acid, and the carrots had carotenoids and antioxidants. A diet rich in these nutrients may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and slow the progression of the disease in those already diagnosed. The easy part of eating for eye health is learning which kinds of foods are best, foods like salmon, eggs, corn, blueberries, peppers, and leafy green vegetables.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 or older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. In some cases, the disease advances slowly and vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to loss of vision in one or both eyes. Age is a major risk factor for AMD. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking-smoking more than doubles the risk
- Race-AMD is more common among Caucasians than African-
- Americans or Hispanics
- Family history and genetics-People with family history are at a higher risk
Lifestyle does make a difference. Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.
Researchers at the National Eye Institute tested whether taking nutritional supplements could protect against AMD. They found that daily intake of certain high-dose vitamins and mineral can slow progression of the disease in people who have intermediate AMD, and those who have late AMD in one eye. Studies showed that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper can reduce the risk of late AMD by 25%. Other supplements help as well. The list published by the National Institute of Health includes:
500 milligrams of vitamin C
400 international units of vitamin E
80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide
2 milligrams of copper as cupric oxide
10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin