A diet that includes regular consumption of eggs may help protect against macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., according to new research by Assoc. Prof. Thomas Wilson
of the Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences
The 12-month study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology & Research, measured the effects of eating a dozen eggs per week on people with early age-related macular degeneration.
The macula, which is the light-sensitive portion of the retina, controls the ability to see in fine detail, making it possible to read, recognize faces or colors and clearly see objects. Age is a major risk factor for the disease, with more than 10 million people over the age of 60 in the U.S. affected by it.
According to Wilson, eggs provide nutrients that protect eyes from harsh light that damages the macula.
“Nutrition is one way to prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration. In our study, we found that people who consumed 12 eggs per week had a significant improvement in glare recovery, which means that they could more quickly recover sight after exposure to bright light,” he says.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants located in the macula, are found in eggs and in leafy green and yellow vegetables. The nutrients help protect the eyes against damaging blue light, originating from sunlight, indoor lighting, TVs and computer screens.
In the study, people who consumed a dozen eggs each week showed a 52 percent increase in lutein and an 83 percent increase in zeaxanthin in their blood, compared to the control group, whose members did not consume eggs.
“With a change in diet, people may slow the progression of the disease by preventing light from damaging the macula,” says Wilson.
Wilson’s previous research studied egg consumption over a period of five to 10 weeks among older adults without the disease. Even in a shorter time frame, the results were positive, he says. Macular pigment optical density and blood lutein and zeaxanthin levels improved.
Both studies were funded by the USDA and the Egg Nutrition Center, a division of the American Egg Board.