Vitamin D may help fight the leading cause of blindness among older adults, especially among people most likely to contract it. New research found that the vitamin may play a significant role in preventing age-related macular degeneration among women who are more genetically prone to developing the disease.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo analyzed data from 1,230 women aged 54 to 74 who took part in the Carotenoids in Age-related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS). Serum samples revealed the women’s vitamin D levels.
Their findings suggested that vitamin D protected women with a specific high-risk genotype for macular degeneration from contracting the disease—and not just a little. Women who were deficient in vitamin D were 6.7 times more likely to develop AMD than women with adequate levels of the vitamin. The authors believe vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties may be responsible for the results.
"Our study suggests that being deficient for vitamin D may increase one's risk for AMD, and that this increased risk may be most profound in those with the highest genetic risk for this specific variant in the CFH protein," the study’s lead author, Amy Millen, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the university’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a university release. The study has been published in JAMA Ophthalmology online.
Previous research involving nearly 8,000 subjects found that people with the highest levels of vitamin D were 36 percent less likely to have early macular degeneration than people with the lowest levels. An estimated 15 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration, according to the American Society of Retina Specialists.