Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps ward off a common eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). A study in Acta Ophthalmologica looked at the relationship between intake of antioxidants (including the antioxidant lutein) and the incidence of macular degeneration. It found that people with low intake of antioxidants were twice as likely to have this eye disease versus controls.
The macula is made from a yellow antioxidant called lutein. Dietary sources of lutein are leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens), brussels sprouts, and broccoli. It is also found in eggs and corn. Lutein supplements can be made from marigolds.
Antioxidants mitigate cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals “steal” electrons from molecules, causing cellular damage in the body, including the eyes. Much research has shown the importance of antioxidants in preventing and supporting eye disease. A healthy diet, rich in produce, contains plenty of antioxidants. Supplementation may be necessary to ensure adequate intake. Additionally, aging individuals have less-efficient digestion and lower calorie needs, and may therefore need to take supplements.
The macula is crucial for central vision. All steps should be taken to prevent macular degeneration before it starts; once this disease sets in, it is chronic.
Study: Snellen, EL et al. “Neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its relationship to antioxidant intake.” Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2002 Aug;80(4):368-71