Top ten foods for the prevention of age-related macular degeneration

One common question I get asked about macular degeneration is what can I do to prevent it from getting worse? I tell patients to eat foods that help prevent macular degeneration and its progression.

I base a lot of the advice on the evidence provided by extensive clinical studies such as AREDS and AREDS 2 conducted by the National Eye Institute.

These studies show that certain vitamin supplements reduce the risk of wet age-related macular degeneration.

The rationale is that eating foods that contain these vitamins will provide the same benefit.

A Dutch study showed that people who ate a diet rich in vitamins A, C, E and zinc over an 8-year period were 35% less likely to develop macular degeneration. Researchers compared the study group to people who ate an average diet.

So, here are my top ten foods for age-related macular degeneration.

Spinach

Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable rich in beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin vitamins. All these vitamins had a beneficial effect in the AREDS and AREDS 2 studies. I recommend my patients eat half a cup of raw spinach three times a week.

Kale

Kale is a green leafy vegetable rich in lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. Researchers are studying the effects of oil-based extract kale or fresh kale on the macular pigment concentrations in the eye. They want to determine if this would have a benefit to patients with age-related macular degeneration.

Cabbage

Cabbage is not everyone’s favourite, but it is rich in vitamin C. According to AREDs trials, Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants prevent damage from free radicals. Studies link these free radicals to the disease process of age-related macular degeneration.

Fish

Fish is rich in omega-3 oil. Omegra-3 oils may help prevent age-related macular degeneration. The AREDS 2 study showed that taking Omega-3 oil supplements did not reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration progression. Other studies show that eating fish may prevent patients from developing age-related macular degeneration. Fish is also rich in the B vitamins, and studies suggest that people with diets rich in the B vitamin have a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration. I recommend my patients to eat 2 to 3 portions of fish a week if possible.

Fruit

We all know that eating fruit has positive effects on our health but it also has benefits for age-related macular degeneration. One Harvard study showed that patients eating 3 or more portions of fruit per day were less likely to develop advanced or wet age-related macular degeneration.

Nuts

A Massachusetts study showed that eating nuts on a regular basis prevented patients with mild age-related macular degeneration developing advanced disease.

Whole wheat spaghetti

Whole wheat pasta is an example of a low glycemic index carbohydrate. Once consumed, these foods slowly release their energy into your body. Foods that have a high glycemic index (quickly releasing energy) create a rapid rise in blood sugar. Studies associate blood sugar rise to increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Whole grain bread and brown rice

Both brown rice and whole grain bread are examples of low glycemic index carbohydrates. These foods may be beneficial in reducing your chance of age-related macular degeneration.

Skinless chicken

Skinless chicken is rich in zinc. Zinc is essential for healthy eye functioning. The AREDS and Rotterdam studies show a beneficial role for zinc supplementation in reducing the risk of developing wet age-related macular degeneration.

Modifying your diet to reduce your likelihood of getting age-related macular degeneration is one part of what patients can do to prevent visual loss from the disease. In a later blog post, I will discuss other practical steps patients can do to prevent age-related macular degeneration.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about age-related macular degeneration or would like to discuss prevention or treatment of the condition, please feel free to call me on 020 7305 5063.