Wellbeing: Can supplements help save my sight?
Q. I’m 66 and have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and am panicking about possibly losing my sight. I’ve been told to eat rainbowcoloured veggies and fruit, but are there any supplements that will help?
A. Several readers have asked about this common condition, which affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the biggest cause of vision loss.
If you have early-stage dry AMD , a study of 121 patients by the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland offers hope. While it is vital to eat different coloured vegetables and fruit daily,this ongoing research shows that taking a supplement with three carotenoids – antioxidants that make up the yellow pigment in the macula – can improve vision in early AMD.
The first group in the trial was given a formula with two carotenoids (zeaxanthin and lutein) plus minerals; the second had the same formula with a third carotenoid called meso-zeaxanthin. Over the two-year trial, patients’ vision would have been expected to get worse, but 40 per cent of them had a clinically meaningful improvement, with the biggest benefit seen in the second group.
Professor John Nolan, who led the study, does not claim that the formula is a magic bullet to cure AMD ‘because it’s such a multifaceted disease. Good nutrition is a modifiable factor and can have a significant impact,’ he says. ‘The supplement used in the trial [Macushield Gold, £21.99 for 30-day pack, victoriahealth.com] contains ten times more eye carotenoids than a typical diet would offer, including meso-zeaxanthin, the most important one, which is difficult to get from your diet. Also, 12 per cent of the population cannot make meso-zeaxanthin.’
Professor Nolan is campaigning for eye health professionals to inform patients of the findings and also for the product to be available free of charge to patients with early AMD .
AGE -RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION: THE FACTS
• Macular degeneration develops when the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision, stops working effectively due to a build-up of deposits damaging the cells of the macula.
• There are two main types of AMD, dry and wet. Dry AMD is the most common and least serious type. Loss of central vision is gradual and occurs over many years. However, about one in ten people go on to develop wet AMD, which is more serious.
• Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells. If this happens, vision can deteriorate within days.
• AMD is most common in people over 50, more so in women than in men. An estimated ten per cent of over 65-year-olds have it to some degree. A family history also contributes to your risk. Smokers are at least three times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.
In June, a four-man crew will row nonstop for 3,600 miles across the Indian Ocean to raise funds for charities supporting Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, which is diagnosed in people under the age of 50. Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, muscle stiffness and pain.
Without any assistance, they will face challenges of bad weather, extreme weight loss and exhaustion. Despite the physical and mental pressures, Parkinson’s sufferer Robin Buttery, 46, volunteered to be a crew member. Researchers at Oxford Brookes University will monitor his body’s reactions to investigate the cause of the disease and hopefully lead to better treatment.
For more information and/or to donate, visit rowtheindianocean.com.
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Breaking Upwards: How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Separation by Charlotte Friedman (Short Books, £8.99*)
Former barrister Charlotte Friedman trained as a psychotherapist to help couples manage the emotional fallout of separation and divorce. This clear, thoughtful book, which leads readers through the practical, legal and psychological consequences of shattered relationships, should be prescribed for each partner in any breakup.