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Eyeing the right diet

health-and-fitness Updated: May 27, 2008 15:49 IST
Highlight Story

Macular degeneration is a painless, degenerative eye disease that results in blurred vision, distorted view of straight objects and difficulty in performing daily activities like reading and driving.

The macula is that portion of the retina where images are focused; hence it is responsible for fine vision. The main factors that put people at risk of macular degeneration are inadequate nutrient intake, smoking and underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

The degeneration is basically a consequence of free radical damage and decreased blood and oxygen supply to the retina.

Macular degeneration may be dry (caused due to the breakdown of the light sensitive cells in the centre of the retina, called the macula) or wet (caused when new blood vessels behind the retina grow toward the macula and leak blood and fluid, thus impairing vision).

Dietary factors
Nutrition is an important tool in preventing and treating macular degeneration. A diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables is particularly helpful and can even prevent the wet and dry types related to aging.

Extensive studies have show that a diet that is high in carotenoids, antioxidant vitamins like C and E and omega 3 fatty acids can prevent the development of macular degeneration and, if you already have it, delay its progression.

These potent antioxidants help by neutralising the free radicals (charged molecules) that are produced in the highly metabolically active macula and cause degeneration.

Dark green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, especially those that have large amounts of the carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin, appear to provide the best protection for macular degeneration.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are the primary pigments in the macula and are believed to protect the retina from ultraviolet light. Flavonoids (like quercetin rutin, and resveritrol) and omega 3 fatty acids also play a role by reducing the oxidative stress to eye cells.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of HealthTotal, a nutrition counselling centre.You can send in your queries to query@health-total.com