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Foods Rich in Vitamins E, Zinc, and Other Antioxidants Reduce Risk for Age-related Macular Degeneration

Armen Hareyan's picture


High dietary intake of beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and zinc is associated with a substantial reduction in risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the elderly, this study found. In an earlier study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study; AREDS), supplements containing 5 to 13 times the recommended daily allowance of these nutrients were shown to slow progression of age-related macular degeneration, with a 25% reduction in a 5-year progression to late age-related macular degeneration. The present study investigated whether antioxidants present in normal daily foods can prevent AMD. The main outcome measure was incident age-related macular degeneration, defined as soft distinct drusen with pigment alterations, indistinct or reticular drusen, geographic atrophy, or choroidal neovascularization.

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The study followed a population-based cohort of inhabitants of a suburb of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, who were aged 55 and older. Dietary intake was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire in the Rotterdam Study, from 1990 to 1993. An ultimate sample of 4,170 participants was followed until 2004, looking for incident AMD determined by grading fundus color transparencies. AMD occurred in 560 individuals after a follow-up of 8 years; 321 were women (57.3%), mean age 68.2. For the 3,610 participants without age-related macular degeneration, 2,151 were women (59.6%), and mean age was
66.4 years.

Dietary intake of vitamins E and zinc was inversely associated with risk for incident age-related macular degeneration. Additionally, foods high in antioxidant nutrients appear more effective than nutritional supplements. An above-median intake of foods with the combination of vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc was associated with a 35% lower risk for incident AMD (HR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.46-0.92). Vitamin E was available from whole grains, vegetable oil, eggs, and nuts. Zinc was available from meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, and dairy products. Carrots, kale, and spinach were the foods that provided the most beta carotene, while vitamin C was available from citrus, green peppers, broccoli, and potatoes.

For persons with early