Lutein macular degeneration

Lutein macular degeneration tells how an awful eye disease is largely preventable. Many and perhaps most noncommunicable diseases today are the result of either the vital phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals being refined out of good-food, or the preservatives and other substances added to it.

Some ten million Americans suffer from age-onset macular degeneration. It's in many ways a disease of blood vessels so those with raised blood glucose are affected; advanced glycation products set up inflammatory changes in the retina.

The Amsler grid is used for a home-test. Do it now.

  • Bring each eye in turn, and cupping the other, whilst wearing your usual spectacles to about 38cm, or fifteen inches, from this screen in ordinary-daylight.
  • Focus now on the dot in the centre.
  1. Are any of the lines wavy, distorted or blurred?
  2. Do all the little-boxes appear the same size, and normally square?
  3. Are there any patches in the grid which are dark or missing?
  4. Keeping your eye focused on the central-dot, can you see the corners and sides of the large grid?
Amsler grid for detection of macular degeneration.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 21st August, 2021.

Not only macular degeneration of the retina, but also cataract formation, is preventable by the presence of certain anti-oxidants in the eye.

Should there be any distortions such as in the graphic above then it is important to see an ophthalmologist immediately; that means today. Any bleeding behind the retina may cause permanent-blindness.

Much research has been done with beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin; and also vitamin E, omega 3 and zinc. We will talk more about that later.

We start this page on lutein macular degeneration with a little-tour of the anatomy of the eye; if you are really not interested, then just scroll down.

Photo-receptors in the eye called cones are sensitive to colour; they are packed in the central-spot known as the macula.

Cones come in three colours; red, green and blue.

Amsler grid macular degeneration.

The cones have various proteins, or pigmentation, which respond to stimulation by differing wavelengths. They are made light-sensitive by vitamin A; a deficiency causes half a million children every year to go blind.

The cones enable us to see fine detail as in reading, and colour, making one able to visualise different parts of the spectrum. They capture the photons from light rays, converting them to chemical energy which is then detected by a nerve-ending, and an impulse is sent to the brain via the optic n. 

Lutein absorbes the high-energy damaging blue light giving protection to the eye.

There are two types of macular degeneration; that which is inherited, and that which is age-related, or acquired. This page relates only to the latter.

Lutein macular degeneration

Lutein macular degeneration reminds us of the importance of eating nutritious food before disease begins; prevention always was, and still is better than a cure. Carotenoids are coloured pigments produced by plants. Enjoyed from fruit and vegetables there is abundant evidence that they reduce malignant tumours, cardiovascular conditions and eye diseases, just to mention a few.

But large trials found no benefit from taking supplements; you have to get these carotenoids from the foods where they are found. They are only of value in prevention; once you have the disease, they help little for the sight already lost.

Lutein acts as an antioxidant, mopping up free-radicals and giving protection against what is known as oxidative stress. It is found in high concentrations in the macula where colour and fine detail are detected by the eye.

This carotenoid, together with two others called zeaxanthin and oleocanthal, gives protection against the age-related type of macular degeneration. 

In a landmark research project, reported in 2007 in JAMA, scientists found that an increase in lutein, and its twin sister zeaxanthin, significantly reduced the likelihood of developing three important eye diseases, of which age-related macular degeneration is but one; in total they affect over five million Americans.

Their conclusion is that higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin from foods have a reduced likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration.

In other research French scientists have found that those regularly consuming extra virgin olive oil, which is where the third carotenoid, oleocanthal, is found also have less cataracts and blindness from AMD.


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Age related eye disease study

Researchers reporting on the age related eye disease study results in the National Eye Institute found that high doses of the following significantly reduce the chance of getting advance age-related Macular Degeneration.

  1. Vitamin C
  2. Vitamin E
  3. Beta carotene
  4. Zinc

However, the synthetic beta-carotene caused an increased incidence of lung tumours in smokers, so a second study was done,

  1. Replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin.
  2. Omega-3 oil

Results showed that the omega-3 made no further improvement, and the lutein and zeaxanthin mixture instead of beta carotene was just as effective.

It's interesting how often these self-same vitamins appear of importance in many other disease; for example vitamins C and E, plus two others, in the prevention of frailty syndrome.

More research

A massive study published in JAMA in 2015, after following over 100,000 nurses, both male and female for 26 years, found a risk reduction of 40% of developing age related Macular Degeneration when comparing those with the most lutein and zeaxanthin to those with the least in the blood.

To get lutein benefit you have to persuade your tongue that even if it doesn't really like dark-green leafy vegetables, nevertheless to stop one going blind you will eat them. And then a strange thing happens; you find you actually get to like them.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a complementary factor in lutein macular degeneration. Research published in 2015 in JAMA Ophthalmology reported a massive 6.7 increased odds of women developing age related Macular Degeneration if they were deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D is best obtained from moderate exposure to sunshine, with a hat, and cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, pilchards, and mussels. Read more about food rich in vitamin D.

Copy and paste "pilchard fish cakes" for example into Site Search for more information.

vitamin b

Researchers have found in a strong study conducted at Harvard Medical School that a group of professionals at high-risk of cardiovascular disease given vitamins B6, B9 and B12 after 7.3 years had a significantly lower prevalence of AMD[3] too.


High serum phosphate is another cause of macular degeneration. From soft drinks, processed meat and baked goods it is one of the direct causes of calcification of the inner lining of arteries leading to high blood pressure and age-related macular degeneration[4].


Research published in 2010 in Current Medial Research and Opinion confirms that supplements with preparations including lutein and zeaxanthin not only significantly decreased the incidence of age-related macular degeneration but also the development of nuclear lens opacities; cataracts. 

In general your greens are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Top of the list by a mile is raw greens, and when lightly-steamed second in line; read more at benefits of kale.

Spinach, broccoli and lettuce are all good-sources of lutein and zeaxanthine; as are eggs and corn on the cob too.

Free-range eggs have 7 times more carotenoids, obviously from the greens the hens themselves enjoy. Just watch a group of chickens if they get into the kale patch; they go crazy.  

In short do not take pills but let your food be your medicine; that was the advice of the great Hippocrates, the father of medicine; I will say amen to that.

Foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin

So here's the deal; enjoy foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin or get cataracts and a high probability of blindness.

Hidden in Bernard Preston's lunch today you'll find the benefits of spinach; lutein macular degeneration is a topic close to my heart. I've no desire to go blind in my dotage; or have a cataract operation. I have two friends who went completely blind in one eye after the latter.

Benefits of kale.

Nutritional value of kale

The recommended allowance is a minimum of 5mg of lutein per day; 1 cup of raw kale, and half a cup of lightly-cooked kale provide 3 times the daily requirement; you will avoid deficient lutein macular degeneration.

There are thousands of these vital phytochemicals; it's simply impossible to take them all in supplement form. The solution to lutein macular degeneration and the thousands of other disease caused by a deficiency, is to enjoy coloured-foods on a daily basis.

In fact research shows that those enjoying 8 or more coloured foods every day have a massive 35% lower all-cause of death.

The nutritional value of kale is an important page for anyone concerned about their eyes.

Kale is not one of the most interesting-tasting foods; dicky it up with one of these recipes for cooking kale.

How to grow corn

Corn on the plant.

How to grow corn is just one other way to decrease your risk of deficient lutein macular degeneration.

Maize gets bad press these days, mainly because of the devastating effect of high fructose corn-syrup used by irresponsible food manufacturers on the body.

But the very low carbohydrate Banting diet also frowns on corn in any form because of its albeit natural-starch content.

Our strong recommendation is to enjoy all these natural foods on a daily basis. In the context of the whole meal fresh-corn on the cob certainly cannot be described as a glycemic food; the effect on blood sugar is slow to moderate. Take a short walk after lunch if you are vulnerable.

The exercise associated with gardening also helps to normalise blood glucose and making sure the retinal vessels get sufficient oxygen and nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. It also lowers the toxic fats in the plasma that cause the so-called "drusen" deposits in the macular.

Olive oil

Many studies have pointed our that nutritional factors and dietary patterns influence the onset and progression of macular degeneration.

It is well researched that a Mediterranean diet specifically enriched with extra virgin olive oil will reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality by nearly 50%1. Could it help prevent macular degeneration.

Research done in Australia on nearly 7,000 older folk found that adding one tablespoon of olive oil every day reduced late onset macular degeneraytion by over 50%. According to Professor Vicki Flood from the University of Sydney this is in part because the fat helps us absorbe more of the lutein and zeaxanthin that is on our plate; it increases the bioavailability.

In this study they found that trans fats, as used in margarine, was associated with an increased prevalence of late onset AMD, whereas olive oil decreased it; and omega-3 lowered it for early onset macular degeneration[2].

There was also the suggestion that one of the polyphenols found only in extra virgin olive reduced the oxidative stress in the tissues in the retina.


Rosemary, the herb often used in the cooking of chicken, contains a phytochemical called carnosic acid. It is one of the anti-oxidants known to mop up free radicals; it is also noted for increasing blood flow and nerve conduction.

Researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical research institute found that it also protects the retina from degeneration.


Researchers reporting in J Nutr declared that eating one egg per day for five weeks increased the serum lutein by 26% and zeaxanthin by 38%. Interestingly total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels were not affected.That is now well known; it's not the animal fats we eat that cause dyslipidemia but the refined carbs.

Eggs give zeaxanthin and lutein protection against macular degeneration and do not raise the risk of cardiovascular disease from raised cholesterol; ironically they are now endorsed by the Heart Association.

Macular degeneration and the gut-retina axis

Researchers have found that a teeming microbiome supported by whole grain food also produced certain metabolites that protect the eyes against macular degeneration[5].

That is the reason we ferment kefir in our own kitchen and take it several times a week.

Bernard Preston

Bernard Preston is passionate about attempting as far as possible to live a life without medication. That means plenty of exercise and a return to the foods that our grandmothers served; they would not have suffered from lutein macular degeneration.

The last fifty years during which our mothers were greatly influenced by the move away from natural living to convenience foods, have been characterised by obesity and skyrocketing autoimmune diseases.

Whilst the research mentioned above is about the supplements used in the struggle with lutein macular degeneration, our focus is rather about getting these substances naturally on a daily basis from our food long before you have a positive Amsler grid test.

Interestingly, two independent researchers, one in America and the other in Europe, have found that the prevalence of AMD is actually decreasing. Many reasons are put forward; reduced smoking is top of the list, known to be an important factor in the disease.

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  1. Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study.
  2. Fat Consumption and Its Association With Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  3. B vitamins may protect against macular degeneration
  4. Major cause of blindness linked to calcium phosphate deposits in the eye
  5. Involvement of a gut–retina axis in protection against food related glycemia-induced age-related macular degeneration
  6. Macular degeneration visuals at WebMD
  7. Diabetes Mellitus and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration showing tangled blood vessels.

Both diabetes and macular degeneration cause changes in the micro blood vessels in the retina. Raised blood glucose leads to the inflammatory pathways associated with damage to the eye and adult-onset blindness[7].

Obviously this is not intended to be an in-depth article on macular degeneration; we are just stating that simple changes in life style can profoundly reduce the risk of going blind unnecessarily when we get old. Prevention always remains better than a cure.

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