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Antioxidants, key to combating retinal degeneration

Good nutrition is essential in the prevention of many pathologies and this applies to eyes too. In the case of ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma and certain retinopathies, a healthy diet is a preventive factor to be taken into account

Feeding, resting and breathing are basic needs for every human from birth: they occupy the base of Maslow’s Pyramid and are key to survival. If they are not well cared for they can affect a person and this can lead to pathologies. While air quality or lack of rest can cause problems, the same is true for food.

Diseases caused by poor diet are far from few. Therefore, a healthy diet is an important mechanism to consider in the prevention of many pathologies, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma and certain retinopathies. These diseases can end in blindness.

There are several lines of research in progress in the field of nutrition. For example, the Barcelona Macula Foundation and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in close collaboration with the Institut de la Màcula, are working on a study that aims to analyse the intestinal and oral microbiota of patients diagnosed with AMD. Recent studies suggest that the microbiome may play an important role in the pathogenesis of AMD and, unlike other factors, the microbiome is potentially modifiable.

Nutrition strategies are also being developed using antioxidants, based primarily on the fact that retinal degeneration is caused, among other factors, by serious oxidative damage – as occurs, for example, with AMD and Retinitis Pigmentosa. Here, antioxidants can slow the death of photoreceptors.

The vitamins with the most antioxidant power include B1, C and E. Vitamin B1 is present in foods such as yeast, rice, fish, pork, nuts, wheat germ, milk and derivatives. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers and vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli. Vitamin E, finally, is located in egg yolk, meat, seafood, wheat and other cereals, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils and avocados.

However, it is important not to forget carotene (pre-vitamin A) and flavonoids, and the antioxidant power they possess. The former is found in carrots, watercress, spinach, leeks, pumpkin, mango or salmon; while the latter is in fruits such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries or bananas, plants such as aubergines and onions, and drinks such as wine, green tea and black tea.

A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, carotenoid substances and flavonoids, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin protects against free radicals and therefore is to be recommended in the prevention of eye diseases.

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