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Low Vitamin D Level Raises Risk of Macular Degeneration

In women with a specific genetic marker, a low vitamin D level boosted the likelihood of developing macular degeneration during a three year study.

A low vitamin D level may contribute to the chance of developing age-related macular degeneration, but only in people with a genetic susceptibility.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo analyzed data on more than 1,200 women in a section of the Women’s Health Initiative. This part of the study is considering nutritional status and the risk of macular degeneration.

Macular Degeneration:

Macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness among elderly Americans. In this condition, the central part of the retina deteriorates and stops functioning well, which leads to loss of central vision to start with. In early macular degeneration, there may be no symptoms, but the eye doctor can detect it with an examination.

Research has attempted to find ways to prevent macular degeneration. Studies have shown that a specific combination of nutritional supplements (which we wrote about here) can delay the progression of moderate macular degeneration, but there isn’t yet solid information on how to prevent the disease altogether.

Low Vitamin D Level:

In the Women’s Health Initiative study, serum levels were assessed as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This shows how much vitamin D is available from all sources (sun exposure as well as supplements and the small amount of vitamin D that may be obtained through diet).

The likelihood of macular degeneration was strongest in women with a specific variant of an immune system gene called CFH who also had low levels of 25 hydroxyvitamin D. An additional gene variant (for a gene called CFI) was also considered.

Women who had both variants together with a low vitamin D level were more than six times more likely to develop macular degeneration in the course of the study.

JAMA Ophthalmology, online Aug. 27, 2015

You can learn more about vitamin D and how to determine if you are getting enough in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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