What is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic irreversible eye condition associated with ageing that results in vision loss in the centre of the macula. The macula is located in the part of the eye that allows you to see fine details. When AMD occurs, you will find difficult to read, drive safely or recognize faces. In Singapore, AMD is one of the top causes of blindness typically affecting those above 50 years or older.
Nutrition and AMD
Proper nutrition is critical to eye health. Several studies highlighted the positive roles of multiple food items in delaying the onset and progression of AMD though the results are not conclusive yet.
Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of antioxidants, which protect our eyes by reducing damage related to free radicals that can cause age-related eye diseases. Recently there is an increasing interest in the roles of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are uniquely concentrated at the macula. Evidence has shown that dietary lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective against late AMD. They are found in green leafy vegetables and other foods such as pumpkin, corn, kiwi, red seedless grapes. The best way to increase antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin in our diet is to choose fruits and vegetables of various colours and from different types. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends everybody should eat at least two servings of fruits and vegetables everyday to stay in good health.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in eggs and these compounds from eggs are much easier for our body to digest and absorb compared with those from vegetable sources.
Research studies have shown that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, helps lower the risk of AMD. However, omega-3 supplements is currently not recommended as the same benefit is not shown.
Lower Glycemic Index Carbohydrates
The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates in foods how quickly and how much they raise blood glucose after eating. Some studies suggested that a lower-GI diet may be protective against AMD progression but further research is needed to establish the link. Generally, the less processed or cooked a food is, the more likely it is to have a lower GI score, e.g. rolled oats, wholegrain bread and brown rice.
In general, diets high in seafood especially fatty fish, various types of vegetables and fruits, eggs and with a low glycemic index are partially supported by the current evidence and are recommended for AMD patients.
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Broadhead GK, Grigg JR, Chang AA & McCluskey P 2015. Dietary modification and supplementation for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Nutrition Reviews Vol. 73(7):448-462
Health Promotion Board 2019, Age-related macular degeneration, viewed 12 Sep 2019, <https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/14/topic_page_amd>
Sommerburg O, Keunen JEE, Bird AC, van Kuijk FJ 1998. Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. Br. J. Ophthalmol 1998;82:907–910