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Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages tiny blood vessels inside the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). There may be an association between the use of vitamin C and E supplements and a reduced risk of diabetic retinopathy.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined 1,353 type 2 diabetics who were diagnosed from 1993 to 1995. Data from these subjects revealed no association of diabetic retinopathy with vitamins C and E from food alone, but a decreased risk was found among those who reported long-term (> 3 years) use of vitamin C or E or multivitamin supplements. Compared to those who did not report supplement use, long-term supplement users experienced a two-fold reduction in the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Although there had previously been evidence of this association from in vitro, animal, and short-term research, this was the first epidemiologic study on retinopathy to show the same protective effect associated with supplemental vitamin C and vitamin E.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 5, 865-873, May 2004

Several dietary factors are known to be risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among persons over 65. New research indicates that high-glycemic-index diets may be a risk factor for early AMD and potential visual loss later in life.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the association between dietary glycemic index and the 10 year incidence of AMD in the Blue Mountain Eye Study population.

This was a population-based study with 3,654 participants over 49 years of age. Volunteers were examined at the beginning (1992-1994); then were reexamined after 5 years and again after 10 years.

Over 10 years, 208 of the participants developed early AMD. After adjusting for age, smoking, other risk factors, and dietary constituents, a higher average dietary glycemic index was associated with an increased 10 year risk of early AMD. Conversely, a greater consumption of cereal fiber and breads and cereals (predominantly lower glycemic index foods such as oatmeal) was associated with a reduced risk of early AMD. No relation was observed with advanced AMD.

The research suggests that a high-glycemic-index diet is a risk factor for early AMD, and low-glycemic-index foods such as oatmeal may protect against early AMD.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 5, 865-873, May 2004

According to new research, eating one portion per week of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by over 50 percent.

Fish intake, the major source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Of these two types, wet AMD is the primary cause of vision loss.

In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers recruited 105 people (age 65 and over) with wet AMD and 2170 healthy people to act as controls, then compared their dietary habits using questionnaires. The scientists then investigated the association of oily fish and dietary DHA and EPA with wet AMD.

Compared to people who consumed less than one portion of fish per week, participants who consumed at least one serving of oily fish per week had a 50 percent reduction in risk of developing wet AMD. In addition, people who got at least 300 mg per day of DHA and EPA were 68 and 71 percent less likely to have wet AMD than those with lower consumptions.

The results of this study support previous research indicating a protective benefit of omega-3s against the onset of AMD. The benefit may be due in part to their important role in the layer of nerve cells in the retina.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 2, 398-406, August 2008

What is Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Cataracts are treated by removing the cloudy lens of the eye with surgery. Most cataracts are related to aging.

Much of the existing lutein and zeaxanthin research has focused on a role in reducing risk of AMD (age-related macular degeneration).  New research shows that lutein and zeaxanthin may also play a protective role against cataracts.

According to the World Health Organization, age-related cataracts affect some 18 million   people worldwide. Cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, including trauma, disease, diabetes, genetics, and others. Over time, the breakdown of proteins in the lens of the eye results in increasingly poor vision (including reductions in visual clarity, visual acuity,   and contrast sensitivity). Once developed, cataracts must be surgically removed.

A new research from the Archives of Opthalmology provides evidence of a good   correlation between high lutein and zeaxanthin intakes and decreased incidence of nuclear   cataracts. A total of 1802 women (aged 50-79) initially recruited for the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (1994-1998) were re-recruited 4 to 7 years later as part of the  Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study  (CAREDS) .

Researchers selected participants based on whether they could be classified as having high  dietary levels of lutein and zeaxanthin (78th percentile and above) or low dietary levels (28th  percentile and below). Analyses revealed that women in the high dietary levels group had a   23% lower prevalence of nuclear cataracts than women in the low-level group. Dividing  the  participants into quintiles revealed that women in the highest quintile were 32% less likely to  have nuclear cataracts when compared to women in the lowest quintile (adjusted odds ratio  0.68; P=0.04; adjusted odds ratio 0.68; P=0.01, respectively).

The researchers concluded that diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin correlate moderately well  with decreased prevalence of nuclear cataracts in older women, although additional  research will be needed in order to confirm a specific mechanism for this protective effect.

Source:  Arch Ophthalmology 126(3):354-64

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