Antioxidants are vital for eye health |

Antioxidants are vital for eye health

Eye health is important at all stages of life, but it is even more important as we age. Cataracts and macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, are two serious eye conditions that are more prevalent with age. In fact, nearly half of all Americans will develop a significant cataract after the age of 75. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of legal blindness in the industrialized world, according to the National Institutes of Health.As with nearly all other degenerative conditions, nutritional deficiencies contribute to these conditions. In a study published in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Ohio State University researchers found that the only carotenoids present in the lens of the eye are lutein and zeaxanthin. The researchers demonstrated that these two antioxidant compounds reduced damage to the eye’s lens cells by 50 percent. Vitamin E reduced damage by 30 percent. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important components of xanthophylls, a powerful plant antioxidant. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Dec. 28, 2005, demonstrated the dramatic benefit of antioxidant compounds in preventing macular degeneration. The results of the 1993 Rotterdam study, with eight years of follow-up, showed that a higher dietary intake of vitamin E and zinc were associated with a reduced incidence of macular degeneration. However, regular intakes of adequate levels of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc showed an amazing 35 percent reduction in the incidence of macular degeneration. Surprisingly, the dosages used to achieve these results were relatively low. In another study published in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery in 1991, after 18 months, subjects with macular degeneration who took antioxidants on a consistent basis were 2.5 times more likely to improve on visual acuity testing, and four times less likely to deteriorate in their worst eye, compared to those who took them less consistently. Macular degeneration is not the only degenerative condition that can be prevented by antioxidant intake. In a Tufts University study, women who took vitamin C supplements daily for at least a decade were 64 percent less likely to show signs of the “opacification” that leads to cataracts, when compared to women who took no vitamin C at all. Consider also the following nutrition studies: Patients suffering from two types of glaucoma who were given magnesium twice daily showed improvement of the visual field and reduced peripheral vasospasms (which can cause glaucoma, stroke and heart attack) after four weeks of treatment.Glaucoma patients treated with vitamin B12 for over five years demonstrated better vision and better overall control of their disease.Glaucoma patients who received 150 mg of alpha lipoic acid each day had enhancement of color visual fields and visual sensitivity when compared to controls using only topical medical therapy.As the studies clearly demonstrate, antioxidant nutrients are the best tools available for the prevention of glaucoma and macular degeneration. Don’t wait for an eye condition to reduce your quality of life – take care of them today! Health matters!The Post Independent will run a “Health Matters” column once a month. Have a health matters question for R.J.? E-mail all questions to

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