vitamins, alternative medicine, antioxidants

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Low Antioxidants and Blue Light Damage Retina

A recent study involving over 4,500 participants points to low levels of antioxidants and sunlight exposure as a combined cause in age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. The study was lead by Estrid E. Fletcher, Ph.D., from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and was published in the October 2008 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

AMD happens when the retina is damaged over time. The result is a blurry vision, distorted vision and a complete loss of vision. It has been theorized that high doses of antioxidants such as zinc, carotenoids, and vitamin E and vitamin C, can protect against the harmful effects of blue light from the sun. With this in mind, the researchers studied their subjects.

The study consisted of carefully scrutinizing the blood samples of participants to check their levels of antioxidant nutrients. Photographs were taken of their retinas to test for AMD and they also answered a questionnaire about sun exposure throughout their lifetime. The participants were an average age of 73.2 years.

Surprisingly, nearly 2,200 participants were found to have an early phase of AMD. A little over 100 participants were found to have an advanced form of AMD, Neovascular AMD, and the rest were free from the disease. While the researchers could not pinpoint whether blue light exposure was linked to these cases alone, when coupled with low antioxidant levels it seemed that the two – blue light exposure and low antioxidants in the blood – were associated with the disease.

In particular, it seemed that low levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and zeaxanthin, when combined with blue light, increased the chances nearly four times for developing neovascular age-related macular degeneration.

The scientists noted that they wished they had cost efficient ways to do screening on the older population to determine whether they are at risk. In lieu of this testing, they are recommending that middle-aged and older people stay out of direct sunlight, and use large hats and sunglasses to protect their retinas. In addition, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can further help to protect them by supplying enough vitamin C, E and zinc to help combat the disease.

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