Vitamin D Linked to Lower Macular Degeneration Risk

Women under 75Annual Survey | Vitamin D3 D Sources

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Vitamin D – and the fact that so many people are deficient in this vital compound – has been in the news a lot lately.  A lack of vitamin D has been linked to asthma in children, the development of cancers, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin D impacts the health of the eyes as well.
A number of  studies show that low vitamin D3 levels correspond to an increase in the incidence of age related macular degeneration.

Editor’s Note: Vitamin D3 is one of the super nutrients that should be part of everyone’s diet, and should be added as a supplement particularly for people who do not get much exposure daily to the sun.  Vitamin D3 has also been tied to helping prevent cancer, improve immune function and bone health, regulate insulin and blood pressure, and more. (Researchers: Parekh N, et al.)

Women Under 75 & Vitamin D

A new study published in The Archives of Ophthalmology finds that women under age 75 can reduce their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by increasing their intake of vitamin D.  A study of over 1300 women found that eating foods rich in vitamin D and taking dietary supplements, but not necessarily time spent in direct sunlight (often considered the best way to get vitamin D), was linked to decreased chances of AMD.  Compared to those who consumed the least vitamin D, those who consumed the most vitamin D were 59% less likely to show signs of AMD.

Those consuming the highest amount (on average about 600 IU) daily had a 59% lower risk of AMD compared to those getting the least amount of 300 IU on average.

Ref: Millen AE, et al. Vitamin D status and early age-related macular degeneration in postmenopausal women. Arch Ophthalmol 129:481-89, 2011.

Note: Research shows that the destructive effects of inflammation on the retina’s blood supply (choroid) and the pigment-containing cells of the retina may play a major role in the development of macular degeneration. Vitamin D may help due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, as well as strong antioxidant benefits.

Another study  shows that high doses of vitamin D may help women under age 75 fight off macular degeneration (AMD).

Because of its abilities to fight inflammation and support immune health, vitamin D may help suppress the cascade of destructive inflammation  that happens during the early stages of AMD.

Women between age 50 and 79 in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study were evaluated to determine protective effects of vitamin D intake in the forms of food, nutritional supplements, and sunlight.  Taking vitamin D in supplement form proved to be more helpful in preventing the onset of macular degeneration than exposure to sunlight.  Source: OSN Supersite

This study substantiates two earlier studies:

Annual National Survey

Researchers using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988 through 1994) have found evidence that consuming vitamin D may help ward off age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In this study, 7752 individuals (including 11% with AMD) were given retinal photographs, dietary intake questionnaires, and blood tests to calculate blood vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) levels.  Based on these vitamin D blood levels, participants were divided into 5 groups.   Participants in the group with the highest vitamin D levels showed 40% lower risk of developing early AMD than those in the lowest group.

Analysis was also conducted to evaluate associations with important food and supplemental sources of vitamin D.

  • People who drank milk daily decreased their risk of developing AMD, as did those who took supplemental vitamin D consistently but didn’t drink milk daily.
  • Fish consumption was also linked with a lower risk of advanced AMD.

Vitamin D3 Levels

A 2007 study showed the low levels of Vitamin D3 is linked to an increase in the prevalence of macular degeneration.

Source: Parekh N, Chappell RJ, Millen AE, Albert DM, Mares JA. Association Between Vitamin D and Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 Through 1994. Arch Ophthalmol. May 2007;125: 661-669.

Vitamin D Sources

What are good sources of vitamin D?  Consider fish — it’s naturally rich in vitamin D.  Milk and breakfast cereals are generally fortified with vitamin D as well.  If you are taking supplemental D, vitamin D3 is the most readily absorbable form of D.