Vitamin E may provide protection against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older people, a team of French researchers has reported.
Macular degeneration is an eye disorder in the area of the eye where
vision is the sharpest, and is a major cause of vision impairment among older individuals. Cause of the disease is poorly understood, and laser
treatment has given limited benefit only to a small percentage of patients.
But results of tests by researchers in France indicate that Vitamin E,
acting as an antioxidant nutrient, may work against what scientists call
AMD, or age-related macular degeneration.
These results suggest that Vitamin E may provide protection against AMD," the French group wrote in the current issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.
The researchers studied information from more than 2,500 adults who were 60 years or older. It was determined that 38 test patients had late AMD, and that the eye disorder was significantly higher in patients who were older than 80.
In patients who showed high body levels of Vitamin E, however, the
scientists found that prevalence of late AMD "was decreased by 82 percent.
High levels of Vitamin E were also associated with a decreased prevalence of early signs of AMD, the French team reported.
Other studies have mostly proved inconclusive, the scientists said. They
noted that theirs is "to our knowledge the first study" of the relationship
between AMD and what is called "lipid-standardized" Vitamin E levels.
The French researchers called for "other studies to confirm our results."
Noting that their research was "observational," they said: "Only randomized interventional studies could prove the protective effect of Vitamin E on AMD."
The French team was led by Dr. Cecile Delcourt of the National Institute
of Health and Medical Research in Paris. The group's research is part of an ongoing study of cataracts and AMD taking place in Sete, France, a town of 40,000 inhabitants.
When consuming more fatty acids like DHA or fish or flax seed oil, or really any polyunsaturated fats, it is important to consume more vitamin E to protect these lipids from producing what is called lipid peroxidation products. Most companies making fish or flax seed oil add vitamin E to their products just to stabilize them and keep them from turning rancid. This undesirable spoilage of oils is called lipid peroxidation and it can occur more readily in the retina where both sunlight and oxygen come into play.
It's important to protect the fatty DHA-rich discs that line your night vision cells (rods) which may oxidize (harden) along with used-up vitamin A within the retinal pigment epithelium layer of the retina. Vitamin E actually protects vitamin A from oxidizing (hardening) within the retinal pigment epithelial layer and retina.
One can induce a vitamin E deficiency simply by consuming more fatty acids. One can now realize the importance of vitamin E for retinal health and should not fear this antioxidant. The observation that vitamin E interfered with the alleged beneficial effects of vitamin A as measured by ERG led to the mistaken advice to minimize vitamin E consumption.
These two fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A and E) do compete for absorption in the digestive tract and for maximal absorption it would be best to consume vitamin A and vitamin E food supplements at different times of the day.
In disease-prone individuals, the exclusion of vitamin E would only tend to accelerate the pace of retinal degeneration, a fact proven in animal studies. Some RP patients who were taking vitamin E supplements, and who abandoned them when the advice was given to minimize vitamin E and take vitamin A, found their vision rapidly declined upon cessation of vitamin E. For those RP patients who are totally phobic over vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, available as a food supplement, substitutes for the action of vitamin E in biological experiments.