An Unknown But Not Unimportant AMD Antioxidant

An Unknown But Not Unimportant AMD Antioxidant

Posted on May.07, 2012, by , under Low Vision Tips

Why are antioxidants so important in the world of macular degeneration? Whether you have been diagnosed with the early stages of this retinal disease, trying to prevent it or have advanced AMD, antioxidants play an important role in the macula  – a very tiny spot in the center of our retina that gives us that sharp, distinct detailed vision, our color vision, and our straight ahead vision.

The macular pigment (MP) is just that – yellow pigment found in the macula and especially in the area of the fovea – an even tinier spot in the center of the macula.  The fovea plays an even more important role in our color vision and detailed, sharp vision.  The two antioxidants that make up the macular pigment are lutein and zeaxanthin. Many people have heard of lutein, but are less familiar with its twin, zeaxanthin.  The fovea actually maintains a natural  ratio of 2:1 Zeaxanthin to lutein.  So to have a healthy macula it is important that both antioxidants are part of a macular degeneration diet or an eye vitamin program.

How doe these antioxidants help the macula? The MP protects the retina in two ways – one is from oxidation which is the process that causes rusting and the other is from light.   Thinning of this pigment leads to macular diseases, while thickening protects the macula. It has been found that those with higher MP density are at less risk for developing age related macular degeneration. .

“This pigment is thought to protect the retina from damage by light and excess oxidation, which over a lifetime can accumulate and contribute to the process of macular degeneration,” says Dr. Max Snodderly, Medical College of Georgia vision scientist.

The good news is that research shows that MP density can be increased through eating foods high in lutein like spinach or kale and  foods high in zeaxanthin like goji berries or orange peppers. Supplementing with vitamins for eyes that include these antioxidants also help to build the MP.

How do you know if your MP is thick enough to protect your eyes or too thin putting you at risk for macular degeneration?  If it is too thin because of genetics, smoking, diet or other causes can one increase their macular pigment density?

Find out how you can have your macular pigment measured, what the numbers mean and how to increase your MP density along with supporting research here:

Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Macular Pigment Density

Leslie Degner, RN, BSN