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Oxidative Stress and AMD
Oxidative stress is one of the pathogenic mechanisms in AMD. The retina is thought to be highly susceptible to oxidative stress given its high oxygen consumption, high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids and photosensitizers, and exposure to light. Phagocytosis by the retinal pigment epithelium also leads to oxidative stress.
AREDS provided evidence that high dose zinc and antioxidant vitamin supplementation can slow AMD progression in relatively advanced early AMD cases (1). Additionally, the Rotterdam Study reported that above-median dietary intake of all 4 of the nutrients studied in the AREDS trial was associated with a statistically significant 35% reduction in incident AMD risk (2).
The Blue Mountains Eye Study is a population-based cohort study of vision, common eye diseases, and other health outcomes in an urban Australian population. A new analysis from this study confirmed the AREDS result that zinc is protective against AMD, and found that higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of long-term incident AMD (3).
Study Design and Methods
Of the 3,654 participants in the study at baseline, 2,454 were re-examined after 5 years, 10 years, or both. The Wisconsin Grading System was used to evaluate stereoscopic retinal photographs. Risk ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated after adjusting for age, gender, smoking and other factors. Energy-adjusted intakes of vitamins A, C, and E; alpha-carotene; beta-carotene; beta-cryptoxanthin; lutein and zeaxanthin; lycopene; iron and zinc were assessed via food frequency questionnaires.
Those in the highest decile of total zinc intake (> or = 15.8 mg/day) were found to be significantly less likely to develop early or any AMD compared with the remaining population (RR 0.54; CI 0.30-0.97 and RR 0.56; CI 0.32-0.97 respectively).
Similarly, for dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake, those in the top tertile (> or = 972 mcg/day) had a 65% reduced risk of incident neovascular AMD (RR 0.35; CI 0.13-0.92). For those with above-median intakes, 34% reduction in risk of incident indistinct soft or reticular drusen was noted (RR 0.66; CI 0.48-0.92).
In contrast, the highest vs. the lowest tertile of total beta-carotene intake from diet predicted incident neovascular AMD in both smokers and non-smokers (RR 2.68; CI 1.03-6.96).
These results suggest a possible threshold effect of total zinc intake on risk of early or any AMD. A protective effect from high intakes of zinc is biologically plausible. Zinc is concentrated in the retina and is a cofactor for many enzymes, including the antioxidant enzymes present in human retinal pigment epithelium. Zinc is also a cofactor for vitamin A metabolism and is essential for the synthesis of retinol binding protein. In AREDS, the protective effect shown with combined zinc and antioxidants seemed driven largely by zinc. The recently reported findings from the Rotterdam Study also seemed to be driven by zinc, and perhaps vitamin E.
These results also suggest a possible threshold protective effect of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake on the risk of neovascular AMD or indistinct soft drusen. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids that concentrate in the macula, where they are the main components of macular pigment.
The finding of a link between higher intake of beta-carotene and increased risk of AMD are inconsistent with other reports. In addition to the previously mentioned findings of AREDS and the Rotterdam Study, the Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group also reported a reduced risk for AMD with higher dietary intakes of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
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