Researchers have found that certain supplement combinations actually modify how genes and proteins affect the behavior of white blood cells in the retina. They are investigating the reasons why certain supplements are helpful against macular degeneration. The answer may be that compounds in the supplements regulate the white blood cells (macrophage phenotypes).1
Seniors in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can become desperate to slow down the eye disease’s progression. The eye doctor typically suggests quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, and getting regular eye exams.
Additionally, research has shown that certain supplements can slow down the progression of AMD. If AMD progresses into the advanced “wet” form, the patient could lose much of their central vision. Eye doctors can treat the “wet” form with uncomfortable injections and laser treatments. However, the “dry” form does not have many medical options.
How Age-Related Macular Degeneration Damages the Eye
The macula is a yellowish dot in the center of the retina, at the back of the eyeball. The retina sends signals to the brain via the optic nerve. The macula is responsible for our most refined vision–the center of our visual field. AMD is the breakdown of the macula. Small drops of fatty tissue, called “drusens,” form in the macula of dry AMD patients. The advanced “wet” form grows unwanted blood vessels, distorting and damaging photoreceptors and obscuring vision. The body is able to grow new blood vessels where needed (as in the heart to try to bypass an obstruction). However in the retina, this capacity can destroy eyesight because the tiny delicate structures in the eye are vulnerable to inflammation, oxidative damage, and distortion from addition tissue growth.
AMD afflicts people over the age of 50 for several reasons.
- A lifetime of cumulative oxidative damage catches up with them.
- Their ability to absorb nutrients is lessened, due to less efficient digestion.
- Many Americans do not eat a healthy diet to begin with.
- Smoking and sunlight also contribute to the degradation of the eye’s structures.
Supplements Designed to Support the Macula
Macular degeneration is an intractable problem. Therefore, researchers have studied it in depth. At Natural Eye Care, we have reviewed the research and developed several supplement packages to support the macula. Our AMD 4G package is aimed at retinal support, blood vessel strengthening, and circulation improvement. Also, it is designed to help prevent new, unwanted blood vessels from growing. The package contains five different supplements, each supported by research. The supplements are Vitamin D3, Dr. Grossman’s Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula, Krill Oil, Resveratrol (Trans) with Quercetin, and Dr. Grossman’s Blood Vessel Formula.
Vitamin D – Antioxidant & Anti-Angiogenesis
Vitamin D is produced in the skin through exposure to sunshine. The body can also create it from nutritional sources. Proper vision requires vitamin D from the diet. In the body, vitamin D’s hormone-like capacity is essential for several metabolic processes, such as regulation of cellular messaging and the immune system. In the eye, vitamin D has been found to reduce retinal cell damage. It inhibits inflammation in the eye. The research has even found that vitamin D helps reduce the development of unwanted, extra blood vessels (angiogenesis). Angiogenesis is the hallmark of “wet,” advanced macular degeneration.2
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to increased risk of macular degeneration, and advancement to the wet form of AMD.3
Vitamin D’s role is especially important for seniors. This vitamin aids in the absorption of calcium. This supports bone tissue and protects against bone loss. Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between osteoarthritis and AMD. Both can be aggravated by low levels of vitamin D.4
Carotenoids – Antioxidants & Anti-Angiogenesis
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have been acknowledged by researchers to be central to preventing macular degeneration, or slowing or preventing the progression of AMD to the more advanced wet form. A new study underlines the knowledge that these important antioxidants slow or stop the formation of additional blood vessels (neovascularization) in human retinal cells.
It has been known for many years that these carotenoids are essential, but researchers have been interested in learning why. It turns out that not only do they reduce oxidative stress in the retina, but they are vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors, and accomplish this through a very specific messaging pathway.5
Holistic optometrist Dr. Marc Grossman developed Dr. Grossman’s Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula to provide carotenoid nutrients the eye needs. These antioxidant carotenoids are plant-sourced, and derived from whole (not extracts) of bilberry, broccoli, chlorella, spinach leaf, tomato, carrot root, turmeric, and prickly pear. The nutrients include lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, flavonoids, curcumin, and other essential plant-sourced nutrients.
Krill Oil – Omega 3 Source
Western diets feature high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Too much O-6 and not enough O-3 can be a problem. The difficulty with oils containing omega-6 fatty acids, such as corn, soybean, safflower, or sunflower oils, is that they are readily converted by the body into another fatty acid, arachidonic acid, which causes blood clotting, blood vessel constriction, and inflammation. However, when the diet also contains sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, cardiovascular health is improved and inflammation reduced. In the eye this means better oxygen and nutrient delivery and reduced inflammation.
There is a link between high omega-6 fatty acid levels, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and advanced (wet) macular degeneration, especially when there are low levels of antioxidant carotenoids present.6
Most seafood is beneficial to the eyes, but Krill Oil supplements are an especially powerful concentration. Not only does krill oil supply omega-3 fatty acids, but also it contains astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that supports the macula.
Resveratrol – Mitochondria Support
Like carotenoids, omega-3s, and vitamin D, resveratrol helps protect epithelial cells in the retina from oxidative stress. This helps prevent AMD, and/or slow its progression to the advanced form of the disease. Scientists have established that resveratrol is helpful; they are now exploring the reasons why.
Scientists have found that resveratrol reduces inflammation and damage by supporting the integrity of mitochondria. It supports genes that create antioxidants, affecting protein responses. Resveratrol also acts directly as an antioxidant.7
Dr. Grossman’s Blood Vessel Formula
Finally, Dr. Grossman has assembled herbs which act synergistically to reduce the growth of new blood vessels in the retina. These include traditional Chinese medicine as well as other herbs discussed in a 2006 review of anti-angiogenic herbs (used in reducing unwanted blood vessel growth in cancer cases). The article notes that one potential benefit of using these herbs is that they may act through multiple messaging pathways rather than targeting only one system.8
Lifestyle changes are the main way to slow the progression of dry Macular Degeneration. Exercise habits, exposure to smoke, and sunglasses all help protect the macula. However, nutrition has a huge impact. Getting enough eye-crucial nutrients through the diet is difficult. Thus, Natural Eye Care made supplement packages aimed directly at shielding the macula from oxidative damage. A diagnosis of dry macular degeneration does not have to progress to advanced “wet” macular degeneration.
- Rinsky B, Hagbi-Levi S, Elbaz-Hayoun S, Grunin M, Chowers I. (2017). Characterizing the Effect of Supplements on the Phenotype of Cultured Macrophages From Patients With Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Mol Vis. Dec 6;23:889-899. ↩
- Kaarniranta K, Pawlowska E, Szzczepanska J, Jabikowska A, Blasiak J. (2019). Can Vitamin D Protect Against Age-Related Macular Degeneration or Slow Its Progression? Acta Biochim Pol. Jun 18;66(2):147-158 ↩
- Kan E, Kan EK, Yucel OE. (2020). The Possible Link Between Vitamin D Levels and Exudative Age-related Macular Degeneration. Oman Med J. Jan 5;35(1):e83 ↩
- Mahgoub MY, Ghanima ATA, Elmohamady MN, Basset SA. (2020). Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Primary Osteoarthritis Egyptian Patients. Open Access Rheumatol. Mar 30;12:35-40 ↩
- Keegan G, Pardhan S, Chichger H. (2020). Lutein and Zeaxanthin Attenuates VEGF-induced Neovascularisation in Human Retinal Microvascular Endothelial Cells Through a Nox5-dependent Pathway. Exp Eye Res. Jun 6;108104. ↩
- Leung HH, Ng AK, Durand T, Kawasaki R, Oger C, et al. (2019). Increase in omega-6 and Decrease in omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Oxidation Elevates the Risk of Exudative AMD Development in Adults With Chinese Diet. Free Radic Biol Med. Dec;145:349-356. ↩
- Neal SE, Buehne KL, Besley NA, Yang P, Silinski P, et al. (2020). Resveratrol Protects Against Hydroquinone-Induced Oxidative Threat in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Apr 9;61(4):32 ↩
- Sagar SM, Yance D, Wong RK. (2006). Natural health products that inhibit angiogenesis: a potential source for investigational new agents to treat cancer – Part I. Curr Oncol. Feb;13(1:14-26) ↩