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Tips for Avoiding the Looming Age-Related Macular Degeneration Epidemic

The risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be significantly reduced by a combination of higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and a supplement called the age related eye disease and nutrition (AREDS) supplement.

The study, led by researchers from Tufts University and the University of Wisconsin, was published in the June 2009 issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

AMD is a progressive disease that attacks the macula of the eye and affects over 15 million Americans.  It is the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness in the Western world.

Experts are expecting to see a virtual epidemic of AMD due to the aging of the US population. Currently, 20% of people aged 65-74 years and 35% of people aged 75 years or more in the US have the disease.  Scientists predict these numbers will double by 2020.

AREDS is a patented formula meant to fight the onset and progression of AMD. The formula includes vitamins C and E, beta carotene, zinc and copper.

For the study, researchers analyzed data of 2,924 individuals who participated in the 8 year Age-Related Eye Disease Study. The Age-Related Eye Disease study was a major clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute.

According to the National Eye Institute website, the goal of this extensive study was to "learn more about the natural history and risk factors of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts and evaluate the effect of high doses of antioxidants and zinc on the progression of AMD and cataracts."

The researchers found that the highest average intakes of DHA (over 64 mg p/day) were associated with a 27% reduction in advanced AMD, compared to intakes of less than 25 mg per day. Moreover, EPA intakes over 42.3 mg per day were associated with a 26% reduction, compared to intakes of less than 12.7 mg per day.

In light of these findings, the company holding the AREDS patent, Bausch and Lomb, is now developing an AREDS2 formula which will contain antioxidant carotenoids, lutein, and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

Consuming more protective nutrients and foods with a low glycemic index are two effective ways to reduce the risk of developing AMD.

There are also several foods sources that have been shown to promote good eye health including citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables and cold water fish.

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