Eating a diet that's high in antioxidants like vitamins E and C may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, particular if the eye has been damaged by long-term exposure to sunlight, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common vision-robbing disease that arises from gradual damage to the macula, a structure on the retina that allows us to see fine details.
In this new study, the investigators assessed 4,753 adults ages 65 and up, roughly half of whom had AMD. Blood samples were obtained to measure antioxidant concentrations. The study participants were also asked about their typical sun exposure - including whether they habitually wore a hat or sunglasses outdoors.
Among those with low blood levels of antioxidants, sun exposure was linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.
There was no such link seen in people with higher blood levels of antioxidants.
The current findings are the first to suggest that sun exposure may raise AMD risk in people with low antioxidant levels. It appears that antioxidants like vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin and lutein are important in protecting the eye from the damaging effects of sunlight.
Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi and red bell peppers. Good sources of vitamin E include avocado, almonds, walnuts, canola oil, and wheat germ. Zeaxanthin and lutein can be found in dark green, leafy vegetables such as arugula, spinach, kale or Swiss chard.
For more information on foods that may prevent age-related macular degeneration, check out Leslie Beck's Foods that Fight Disease.
This study was published in the October 2008 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
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