Macular Degeneration

Eyesight II



Reading about this now may help you be able to read other things later. 

If there ever was a clear example of an ounce of prevention beating a pound of cure, it would be macular degeneration. "Macula" means "spot," which in this case is on the retina. This is where visual images are focused on the inside of the back of the eye. A lack of antioxidants in the diet puts the retina at risk, causing premature aging and deterioration. Therefore, consuming generous amounts of the body's principle protective antioxidants, namely vitamins C and E, the carotenes, and small amounts of the mineral, selenium, will help protect your sight. Start now, for macular degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss in the elderly. 

If you have already been diagnosed with the condition, your doctor has probably told you that there is no medical treatment to rely on. If so, then there is no reason not to try nutrition. If antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration, larger amounts of them may help reverse it. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most frequent cause of blindness in the Western World. There is evidence as well as controversy as to what extent vitamins can help.

The Eye Disease Case-control Study and other studies found that a higher dietary intake of carotenoids was associated with a lower risk for AMD. (Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA 1994 272: 1413–1420)

Likelihood of macular degeneration is reduced by about half in persons with larger amounts of carotenoids in the blood.

Carotenoids are found in orange and green leafy vegetables. (Eye Disease Case Control Study Group. Risk Factors for Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Archives of Ophthalmology; I 10:#12, 1701-1708, December 1992.)

Macular degeneration occurs twice as often in patients with low levels of vitamin E. (West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J et al. Are Antioxidants or Supplements Protective for Age-Related Macular Degeneration? Archives of Ophthalmology 112:2, 222-227, February 1994.)

A trial with 3,640 participants showed that vitamin E, vitamin C, β-carotene and zinc reduced risk of progression to advanced age related macular degeneration by 25% after six years in those already showing evidence of disease. (Age-related eye disease study research group. [AREDS] A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119:1417–1436.)

The AREDS formulation was a relatively low dosage:

500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C (a very low amount)

400 international units of vitamin E (the DL synthetic form was used. Natural E works far better.)

15 mg beta-carotene (a single large carrot has more than that)

80 mg zinc as zinc oxide (the form used in skin cream; zinc gluconate is far better absorbed.)

2 mg copper as cupric oxide (probably a minor a factor)

And even these low levels of non-ideal forms "reduced risk of progression to advanced age related macular degeneration by 25%."

In a follow-up study [AREDS 2] they actually eliminated the carotene, and lowered the zinc amount.

Higher doses and more appropriate forms would likely get better results

There is strong institutional resistance to thousands of milligrams of vitamin C, natural (D-alpha) vitamin E, and plentiful beta-carotene. This is in spite of the facts that vitamin C does not cause kidney stones; Natural (D-alpha) vitamin E is the only form the body can use; and beta-carotene has falsely been accused of harming long-term smokers. Smoking is what harms long-term smokers Too much vitamin C is indicated by very loose bowels.  Excessive carotene, which is the orange color in carrots, is indicated by orange colored skin.  So if you look like a pumpkin stuck in the outhouse, take less.  Ah, but if you don't, then you can take more. 

Vitamin E is so safe that premature babies are specifically given it to prevent oxygen damage to their retinas. These infants require about 200 International Units a day to be effective. That is the adult dose equivalent of about 7,000 I.U. of Vitamin E daily! Little clinical need has ever existed in adults for even half of that amount. However, the US RDA of vitamin E is only 10 - 15 I.U., and that is not enough to stop macular degeneration in a hamster.  Between 600 and 1,200 I.U. daily is a common therapeutic level for a person. It is only possible to obtain such amounts by taking a supplement. 

Selenium increases the effectiveness of Vitamin E in the body. Only a little selenium is needed, probably between 50 and 200 micrograms daily.  Too much selenium can indeed be toxic, and amounts over 600 mcg daily must be avoided. 

Zinc is another important mineral for the retina. Up to 660 milligrams of zinc a day has been used in some studies, but there is an eventual risk of copper deficiency and anemia if such a high level were maintained.  Just one-fifth of that amount, about 100 mg per day, may be enough to slow or stop the process of macular degeneration. The amino acid chelate form of zinc is very well absorbed and probably good to look for. That, or eat a lot of mollusks (oysters in particular). 

Zinc deficiency in America is the rule, not the exception. Most of us don't even consume the small US RDA of 15 mg per day. Zinc deficiency is especially prevalent in older persons.  The signs of too little zinc in the diet are, curiously enough, a weak immune system, poor wound healing, loss of taste and smell, psoriasis-like skin lesions, prostate problems, rheumatoid arthritis, and senility. Have you visited a nursing home recently?  The idea of zinc supplementation certainly hasn't. 

Instead of beta carotene supplements, I would prefer carrot juice. Yes, it contains a great deal of beta carotene: probably 40,000 I.U. or more per average glass.  But it also contains dozens of other carotenes, not just the beta form. Freshly made from your own juicer, raw carrot juice tastes good and provides many other valuable nutrients.  All health nuts drink carrot juice, so you are in good company. 

Even a single carrot a day reduces a person's risk of macular degeneration by 40 percent. Evidence suggests that more is indeed better. 

The theory is easy enough to test, and safe enough to trust. We've all known since we were toddlers that "carrots are good for our eyes."  What's weird is that nearly one in four of us doesn't even eat a single serving a day of any vegetable. That alone would account for most of the 10,000,000 cases of macular degeneration in this country. 

In addition to carrots, really intense consumption of fresh, raw foods may help much more. I know of a person whose degeneration of the retina was very severe and sadly she had lost much of her sight. In desperation, she began a nearly 100% raw food diet. She ate mostly salads and a jar or two of home-grown sprouts a day. I won't say that she loved doing it, but she loved the results. Over a period of a year or so, her ophthalmologist confirmed improvement. Not only was she no longer losing her sight, she was actually gaining it back. Her recovery was remarkable and, medically speaking, impossible.  A blind man was once belittled for claiming he got his sight back. The man said, "One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25, RSV) 

That is what matters. 


Recommended Reading: 

THE VITAMIN CURE FOR EYE DISEASES. Basic Health Publications, 2012. Neurophysiologist Robert G. Smith, PhD, explains how vitamins and other nutrients can often prevent and sometimes treat glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, diabetic retinopathy, and other diseases of the eye.

Carper, Jean  Food: Your Miracle Medicine, HarperCollins, 1993, pages 438-439. 

Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Psychodietetics, Bantam, 1974 

Hoffer and Walker, Orthomolecular Nutrition, Keats, 1978 


Copyright  C  2005, 2003 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. Revisions copyright 2018. 


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )


Andrew W. Saul


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