Women with specific genes may be more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) if they are deficient in Vitamin D, according to new research in JAMA Ophthalmology.
The genetic variant (Y402H) studied is the complement factor H gene, called CFH for short. The genes in question are related to the immune system. The development of macular degeneration is believed to involve inflammation. In AMD, drusen, lipids (fats) and proteins build up in the eye. The body perceives the drusen to be an invader and attacks it. The genes appear to cause a stronger immune response.
The study looked at the incidence of AMD in women with the gene variant and low vitamin D levels, compared to women without the gene variant and with normal vitamin D levels. They found the women in the first group were 6.7 times more likely to have AMD.
These research results do not prove causation, only association. They do not imply that overcompensating with large doses of vitamin D supplementation will prevent macular denegation. What the research could mean is that people with the gene variant should make sure they have adequate levels of vitamin D. This vitamin is manufactured by the body with a daily exposure to sunlight for a quarter of an hour to a half hour per day (with 10% of the skin exposed). However, in northern climates of the US, this is insufficient due to the angle of the sun. Nutritional sources of vitamin D include typical milk, which is fortified, and fatty fish. Vitamin D levels can be tested in the blood. If a deficiency is detected, supplementation can be prescribed.
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Study: Association Between Vitamin D Status and Age-Related Macular Degeneration by Genetic Risk by Amy E. Millen et. al. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online August 27, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.2715