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Quercetin Can Help Protect Against Macular Degeneration

As you get older, you may worry about a decline in your vision. Perhaps you’ve even started buying reading glasses at the drugstore to help make out that small newspaper print. But could there be a more serious cause for  your loss of vision – other than just age? Almost ten million Americans suffer eventual blindness due to Macular Degeneration. Fortunately, a new study indicates that the flavonoid quercetin may help protect against this debilitating condition. Let’s take a closer look at the results of this study . . .

A new study reveals the benefits of the flavonoid quercetin against macular degeneration.

What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a gradual destruction of the macula, which is the yellowish, central part of the retina about 1.5 mm in diameter that produces central vision and color vision. It usually affects the lowered central visual acuity that is needed for everyday visualization.  The result of this degeneration is permanent blindness and is common in people 50 to 60 years old and older.  Almost ten million Americans suffer blindness because of macular degeneration (ARMD).

There are two types of ARMD - dry and wet.  The dry type is much more common than the wet type (almost 90 percent of ARMD is the dry type).  In the dry type, the macula gradually thins with aging.  The dark colored cell layer that is at the back of the eye (the pigmented retinal epithelium), which is essential for vision, is gradually lost.  One of the first signs of ARMD is the loss of color sensitivity and blurring or haziness during reading.

What can help to protect the macula?
Eating foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can help to protect the macula.  It’s been shown that obese individuals have lower amounts of macular pigment than those who are not obese.  Additionally, people with very low body fat levels have a higher level of carotenoids in their blood.  This leads to more pigment in the macula.

Current research reports state that oxidative stress can cause macular damage.  Some previous studies have shown that the intake of foods that are high in antioxidants can lead to lower risk of ARMD.  It is recommended to take supplementary antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and lutein because most people do not get the recommended levels through their food intake.

Bioflavonoid is another group of antioxidants that help to protect against macular degeneration and are the large group of polyphenolic compounds that provide much of the color and flavor of plant foods.  Quercetin is the most studied bioflavonoid. 

It is found in apples and onions and has the following benefits: 
  • Anti-allergic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-carcinogenic
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-thrombotic

Why is it important to get the “right” amount of quercetin and not too much?

Although quercetin is known to help with macular degeneration, it is important that you do not get an excessive amount of quercetin in your system.   Levels that are more than 100 micromoles have been known to induce chromosomal damage or cytotoxicity.  Therefore, "like many other especially lipid-soluble antioxidants, excessively elevated serum levels of quercetin may cause cellular injury."

Healthy levels of quercetin rest at 0.1 to 1 micromole per day.  Other foods that contain quercetin include:
  • Capers
  • Ancho peppers
  • Cranberries
  • Fennel
  • Cocoa
  • Black currants
  • Buckwheat
  • Black tea
  • Spinach
  • Wild greens

The present study’s results and past findings show "quercetin appears to be a candidate as food supplement in the prevention of early pathologic changes" in ARMD.  Of course, remember that too much is not good for you, but getting a specific amount can help to protect you against macular degeneration.

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