A new study showing a significant increase in common age-related eye disease among older Americans in the last eight years, demonstrates the need for preventive approaches, such as eye health supplements, claims lutein specialist Kemin Foods.
The study, carried out by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, examined a random sample of elderly patients who had received Medicare benefit for three chronic eye diseases - diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
Results from approximately 10,500 patients available for analysis in 1999 showed that age-related macular degeneration increased from 5 per cent to 27.1 per cent between 1991 and 1999. The prevalence of diabetes mellitus increased from 14.5 per cent in 1991 to 25.6 per cent by 1999, with diabetic retinopathy among persons with diabetes mellitus increasing from 6.9 per cent to 17.4 per cent.
Primary open-angle glaucoma increased from 4.6 per cent to 13.8 per cent. The percentage of glaucoma suspects increased from 1.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent, as did the percentage of narrow-angle glaucoma (0.7-2.7 per cent).
Overall, the proportion of subjects with at least one of these three diseases increased from 13.4 per cent at the beginning of the study, to nearly half of the surviving Medicare beneficiaries (45.4 per cent), reported the researchers in the latest issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
Several trials have suggested that the antioxidant lutein, found abundantly in dark green leafy vegetables and in a variety of supplements and fortified foods, may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) among older Americans who have a higher risk of developing the disease, notes Kemin in a response to the study.
In one Harvard study, a diet of 6 milligrams of lutein per day led to a 57 per cent lower prevalence of AMD, leading the study's authors to suggest a diet high in lutein to lower the risk of contracting AMD.
"Lutein's ability to filter blue light and quench molecular free radicals appears to play a role in maintaining healthy macular pigment and reducing oxidative stress in the eye's retina, which has been linked to AMD," said Dr Rodney Ausich, president of Kemin Foods, producer of the purified lutein FloraGLO.
An estimated 25 million to 30 million people worldwide are afflicted with AMD, according to consumer education group AMD Alliance International.