by Dan Roberts
Prolonged exposure to intense blue light (eg. natural or artificial sunlight) is considered a risk factor for AMD. Foods high in antioxidants are also known to help protect the retina from light damage. Until recently, however, no studies have shown a direct correlation between light damage and antioxidant levels.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK have found such a correlation. In their report (Archives of Ophthalmology, October 2008), a team led by Dr. Astrid Fletcher announced that the combination of high sun exposure and low antioxidant levels appears to contribute to AMD risk.
The investigators assessed 4,753 adults ages 65 and older–about half of whom had AMD. Study participants with the lowest combined levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and zeaxanthin appeared to be more vulnerable to blue light exposure than those with higher levels. The risk of AMD in the low antioxidant level group (about one fourth of the study population) increased by 40 percent for every unit increase in blue light exposure.
These findings support the recommendations of most eye care professionals and nutritionists that foods high in antioxidants are important to the health of people at risk for developing AMD. They also help to confirm the importance of avoiding inordinant exposure to natural or artificial sunlight by protecting the eyes with orange or amber tinted sunglasses and by wearing wide-brimmed hats for shade.
For more information about sunlight and the eyes, see “Sunglasses and Macular Degeneration” on this site.