Macular Degeneration and Zinc

Macular Degeneration and Zinc

Reference: Mares-Perlman JA, Klein R, Klein BEK, et al. Association of zinc and antioxidant nutrients with age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol 1996; 114:991-7.

Summary: This study, conducted in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, investigated the possible relationship between intake of zinc and prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Among the town's inhabitants, 1,968 aged 43 to 86 were asked to recall dietary and supplement intake over one-year periods for the ten years before the time of the interview. All of the study volunteers also had fundoscopic photographs available for analysis for signs of macular degeneration.

The 20% of people with the highest level of intake of zinc had a 30% lower risk of developing early signs of age-related macular degeneration. This protective effect remained after adjustment for age, sex, and numerous other risk factors for the disease. A diagnosis of early macular degeneration was made in 16% of study participants; only 30 people had late macular degeneration. Increased retinal pigmentation, one of the lesions associated with macular degeneration, was significantly lower in the people with the highest level of zinc intake. However, other lesions (such as soft, indistinct drusen) associated with macular degeneration were actually more likely in people taking in higher levels of zinc. Late-stage macular degeneration was not affected by zinc intake, possibly due to a higher level of milk intake by people with this condition which raised risk by 50%. Vitamin E was the only other antioxidant nutrient associated with reduced risk of macular degeneration. The 20% of study participants with higher dietary intake of vitamin E had a 40% reduction in risk for macular degeneration. Interestingly, vitamin E from dietary sources had a greater correlation of protection than vitamin E from supplements. The authors conclude that retrospective data, already being collected, is necessary to establish a firm link between prevention of age-associated macular degeneration by zinc in food and/or supplements, as seen in this study.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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