A greater intake of bioavailable carotenoids, particularly lutein/zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, has been linked to a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) based on two prospective cohort studies. The research appears in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study in the United States on 63,443 women and 38,603 men (26 and 24 years of follow-up, respectively) were analyzed on plasma carotenoid score and occurrence of AMD. Participants in both studies were aged ≥50 years and free of diagnosed AMD, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline. Predicted plasma carotenoid score was estimated based on food intake recorded in repeated food frequency questionnaires at baseline and follow-up.

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A risk reduction for advanced AMD of about 40% in both women and men was seen with greatest predicted plasma lutein/zeaxanthin scores; greater predicted plasma carotenoid scores for other carotenoids, including β-cryptoxanthin, α-carotene, and β-carotene, were associated with a 25–35% lower risk of advanced AMD. Intake of carotenoids was not associated with intermediate AMD, which suggests that they may affect on AMD progression instead of initiation.

Besides numerous other health benefits associated with increased dietary consumption of fruits and vegetables, consuming those rich in carotenoids may help to reduce the incidence of advanced AMD, the authors concluded. However, these findings have not yet been confirmed in randomized controlled clinical trials.

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