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AMD and Iron: Exploring the Connection

Macular Degeneration Winchester VAThere is an adage that we don’t hear quite as much as we used to. It says “everything in moderation.” What has happened over the years is that we attribute this sentiment to certain things in life. For example, alcohol consumption may be made more reasonable by consuming the recommended amounts and nothing more. We recognize that eating in moderation helps us stay healthy and avoid unnecessary weight gain. But what about the things that are good for us?

In the past two decades, we have witnessed a dramatic transformation in the collective view of health and wellness. It is much easier to find information and tips on how to foster lifelong health today than it was for our parents and grandparents. Not only do we have multiple tips for eating well, but we have supplements that can complement our dietary habits and further boost our overall wellness. It is uncommon that, in this instance, we may recognize certain hazards. Here, we want to discuss the way that iron intake may increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

What Research Says

Studies have discovered that there is more iron in the retina coinciding with AMD. Patients without this eye condition have a lower amount of iron in the retinal tissue. Interesting! Another detail from research suggests that early cases of macular degeneration are higher in patients with uncommon genetic dysfunction that allows iron to accumulate in the retina. Furthermore, accidental exposure to iron directly in the eye has been linked to the rapid onset of retinal disease. Lastly, mice studies support the theory that iron accumulation in the retina is a primary cause of retinal disease. When given a drug that binds to iron, instances of retinal disease decreased.

Where are We Getting So Much Iron?

There is a prevalence of red meat in the standard Western diet. In one Australian study, researchers found a greater risk of AMD among individuals who consumed more red meat. It is believed that this is related to the high content of heme iron found in this product. Heme iron is absorbed more readily than the iron in spinach, for example. When we consume red meat, iron uptake into the bloodstream sits at about 50%. Only 10% of the iron in vegetables is absorbed. Another primary way we may be getting too much iron is through iron supplements (even multivitamins).

The Bottom Line

Age-related Macular Degeneration is a pressing concern for aging adults. Risk-reduction is the name of the game here, and that means looking at risks we may not have previously considered. Back to where we started . . . Everything in moderation is a great concept to adopt in the reduction of AMD risks.

Call our Winchester LASIK & cataract center at 540-722-6200 to learn more about how we can help you manage AMD risks.

Posted in: Macular Degeneration

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