Macular degeneration and sun exposure. By Marc Sorenson, EdD
Macular degeneration [or age-related macular degeneration (AMD)] is a cause for concern because it causes blindness, especially in the elderly. As of 2010, 2.5 percent of white adults age 50 and older had the disease. And by comparison, macular degeneration affected 0.9 percent each of blacks, Hispanics and people of other races. So what is the macula? It is the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision and consequently lets us see objects clearly.
So what causes AMD?
Due to the sun phobia promulgated by the sunscare industry, one might think that sun exposure is a major cause. Therefore, there are a plethora of online articles suggesting people avoid sunlight, especially in the eyes. While it is not good to stare at the sun, sun exposure to the eyes is necessary for good health. Because sun exposure to the eyes causes the production of serotonin, it lifts our moods and enhances our lives. And because sun exposure assures the proper development of the eye in children, it helps prevent myopia. Furthermore, sunlight daily resets our circadian rhythms. It therefore helps us sleep properly and function better both physically and mentally. And most noteworthy, it does not cause macular degeneration.
But what really causes the disease?
The primary suspect is poor nutrition. First of all, Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that accumulate in the retina of the eye and stop free-radical damage. Consequently, these marvelous nutrients furnish protection against AMD. They are particularly available in dark green leafy vegetables, pistachio nuts and eggs. Thus, a diet lacking green vegetables would be a cause of macular degeneration. In addition, lack of omega-3 fats and surplus of omega-6 fats in the modern diet can contribute to macular degeneration. Hence, we should stop eating junk and we should stop blaming the sun!
What does the research show regarding sunlight and macular degeneration?
Opposite from the prevailing view of sunlight and macular degeneration, research does not support sunlight as a causative factor. A meta-analysis of studies on the subject concludes that sun exposure has no influence on the disease. The researchers assessed 44,000 subjects in 14 studies, and found no significant association either with sun exposure or sun avoidance. In conclusion to their research, the investigators stated their findings. “The results indicate that sunlight exposure may not be associated with increased risk of AMD (macular degeneration) based on current published data.”
Since there is no significant association between sun exposure and macular degeneration, let’s stop blaming the sun.