Further evidence supports role of diet in eye health

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Macular pigment, Macular degeneration, Lutein, Zeaxanthin

A study by researchers in Manchester, England, suggests that
Cognis' Xangold natural lutein ester supplements may promote eye
health in the elderly. If the evidence is confirmed, dietary
supplements and a higher intake of fruits and vegetables could help
many sufferers of AMD.

A new study suggests that Xangold natural lutein ester supplements, made by natural ingredients manufacturer Cognis Nutrition and Health, may promote eye health in an ageing population.

The study by researchers from the Department of Optometry and Neurosciences at the University of Manchester in England has raised hopes that patients already experiencing early stages of AMD may be able to delay or even prevent its progress through dietary intervention. The work is supported by the UK Department of Health under the MedLINK programme (the LINK programme for medical devices).

Evidence has been growing in recent years that a tiny part of the retina, the macular pigment, may give the eye in-built protection from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the disease that is the principal cause of irreversible blindness in the elderly. The macular pigment is entirely made up of lutein and zeaxanthin, plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables.

Research findings strongly indicate that people are at greater risk of developing AMD if the density of their macular pigment is low. Researchers around the world have been investigating the effects of increasing macular pigment density, by simply adding extra sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin to the diets of those at risk, to find out if this can reduce the risk of the disease.

While this theory has not yet been proven, Dr Ian Murray, who presented his group's latest findings to the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Florida, said: "I have seen many patients who are suffering from the disabling effects of AMD. Of course we are excited by the prospect that a simple addition to the diet may impede the progress of the disease and prevent others who are at risk from experiencing such problems. Right now, dietary intervention is the only hope for most of them."

In one study, Dr Murray's group selected eight patients at an early stage of development of the disease. Aged between 60 and 81, these patients so far have normal visual acuity. They were compared with 'normal' subjects, matched for sex, eye-colour and age. The researchers observed, as in earlier studies, that eyes at risk of developing early-stage AMD have lower macular pigment density than eyes without such risk, adding credibility to the theory that the macular pigment has an AMD-protective role.

In the second ongoing study, the researchers gave a daily supplement of Cognis' Xangold 15 per cent Natural Lutein Esters to eight patients (six from the first group) and to eight normal subjects, over a period of 18 weeks and measured the effects. Interim data after 12 weeks of supplementation indicate that the density of macular pigment in both patients and normal subjects increased at the same rate. Further, the researchers found that, where patients already had AMD in one eye, both eyes responded equally well to supplementation.

These results suggest that, at least in the early stages of AMD, the disease does not stop lutein from being deposited in the retina. The significant implication of this finding is that in patients at an early stage of AMD, dietary intervention, in this case with Xangold 15 per cent, may help promote eye health by maintaining the density of the macular pigment.

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