Carrots and fish oil have long been touted for maintaining good eyesight. A recent study now suggests you shouldn’t stop there—a higher dietary intake of specific vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and fatty acids may decrease progression to late AMD, particularly geographic atrophy (GA).

The study retrospectively analyzed two controlled clinical trial cohorts of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and AREDS2 and included a total of 14,135 eyes with no late AMD at baseline. The mean age of participants was 71 years, and 56.5% were female.

The researchers collected fundus photographs and graded them centrally for late AMD. To calculate dietary intake of nutrients, they used participant responses from food frequency questionnaires.

Over the course of a decade, 32.7% of the 14,135 eyes progressed to late AMD. Nutrients that were significantly associated with a decreased risk of late AMD progression and GA included:

  • Vitamins A, B6 and C
  • Folate
  • Beta carotene
  • Lutein/zeaxanthin
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Alcohol

For wet AMD, vitamins A and B6, beta carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, magnesium, copper, docosahexaenoic acid, omega-3 fatty acid and alcohol were associated with a decreased risk.

Nutrients that were significantly associated with an increased risk of late AMD progression, GA and wet AMD included:

  • Saturated fatty acids
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Oleic acid

The study authors noted that the associations were stronger for GA than for wet AMD. These same nutrients, they added, also tended to display protective associations against large drusen development. They caution, however, that since some strong genetic interactions exist for some nutrient-genotype combinations such as omega-3 fatty acids and CFH, more research into the underlying mechanisms should be done, along with randomized trials of supplementation.

Agrón E, Mares J, Clemons TE, et al. Dietary nutrient intake and progression to late age-related macular degeneration in the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies 1 and 2. Ophthalmology. August 25, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].