Although it’s always best to get nutrients from food first, supplements are showing a lot of promise in combating AMD. Reports from large-scale clinical trials suggest that, in high-dose supplement form, several nutrients may help to reduce the risk of AMD significantly. If you have any AMD risk factors, talk with your eye-care professional about taking an “eye health formula” supplement. The current supplement formula being studied in major research trials includes 10 mg of lutein (the equivalent of about 3 cups of spinach), 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin and 1 gram total of EPA and DHA (approximately what you get in a 3-ounce serving of salmon). Until further research is in, there’s no advantage to exceeding those amounts. Remember to take it only under medical supervision; even though these supplements are available over the counter, taking megadoses of any nutrient should always be approached cautiously.
People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop AMD, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The theory is that increased pressure damages blood vessels. This hinders blood flow to the eyes, making it harder for protective nutrients to reach the retina and for damaging free-radical debris to be carried away. Losing extra pounds if you’re overweight or obese might also help. Body fat is a major storage depot for fat-soluble nutrients, and excess fat tissue can act as a “sink” for some eye-protective nutrients, making them less available to the macula.
So I’m redoubling my efforts to eat better—especially when it comes to my weak spots, leafy greens and fatty fish. Since my doctor and I don’t think I’m at high risk for AMD (thanks to my lack of family history and the cloudy, northern climate I live in), I’m not taking an “eye health” supplement for now—just a multivitamin and a calcium supplement. But I’m keeping an open mind about the future, while closely watching for new findings on nutrition and eye health. And I’m doing it all wearing fabulous frames that even Sue would envy.
Rachel K. Johnson, EatingWell’s senior nutrition advisor, is a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont.