We know B vitamins are critical for a healthy life, but a new study shows they may also help stop the leading cause of blindness and low vision in adults.
A 2013 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found subjects who took vitamin B-12 and folate supplements had significantly lower incidences of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) ten years later. The study also found serum deficiencies in those same nutrients with high homocysteine levels, which may be associated with hardening of the arteries, also predicted likeliness of developing AMD.
In this Australian study, researchers tested serum levels of folate, B-12 and homocysteine in adults 55 and older. Ten years later, they investigated associations between serum concentrations and AMD incidence. The results were startling:
- Increased homocysteine levels = approximate 30% increased chance of AMD
- Increased B-12 levels = approximate 30% decreased chance of AMD
- Increased Folate levels = approximate 10% decreased chance of AMD
- Folate or vitamin B-12 deficiency = 2x increased chance of AMD
According to the study, taking these supplements may be a good preventative measure.
But don’t ignore the excellent food sources available! While associations between dietary intake and reduced AMD development were less promising than supplements, intakes of nutrients were assessed by a self-reported food frequency questionnaire in which subjects could inaccurately record intake. It’s also worth noting that subjects with higher initial B-12 intakes typically have healthier lifestyles than the general population. As the study’s scientists agree, more research and tests are needed, but if you want to start helping your eyes now, strive to eat a balanced diet and avoid any nutrition deficiencies with these foods:
- Vitamin B-12: meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy and fortified cereals
- Folate: vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, meat, grains and especially spinach, liver, yeast and asparagus
The bottom line is that any nutrition deficiency is dangerous. In this particular study you can see folate and B-12 deficiencies became a risk factor for the development of AMD. With additional studies and this encouraging research data, we may see that a healthy diet with folate and B-12 rich foods or supplements will reduce elevated homocysteine levels and resulting AMD.
This study has very interesting results, but there are many factors to consider. If you have any questions, leave us a comment and we’ll address it!
Carlene Thomas RD,LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in weight loss and wellness. She provides nutrition guidance to the public in a variety of ways including corporate wellness, private clients and contributes an expert nutrition voice to a variety of media.