An article published online on December 8, 2011 in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine shows a protective effect for grapes and lutein against the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a mouse model of the disease.
In their introduction to the article, Silvia Finnemann, PhD of Fordham University's Department of Biological Sciences and her associates explain that oxidative damage and pro-oxidant lysosomal lipofuscin accumulate in the aging human eye, which causes a decline in function of the retinal pigment epithelium: the support cells for the retina's photoreceptors. The resulting dysfunction and destruction of these cells, in turn, contributes to the development of age-related macular degeneration.
For their study, Dr Finnemann's team administered diets that provided natural antioxidants, grapes or marigold extract containing the macular pigments lutein/zeaxanthin to mice bred to have increased blood vessel formation (which occurs in macular degeneration). While lutein and zeaxanthin proved to be protective to the eye, grapes showed the greatest benefit, with both compounds resulting in reduced lipofuscin accumulation and age related rod and cone photoreceptor dysfunction, prevention of blindness, and other positive outcomes. The antioxidant properties of compounds that occur in grapes are believed to be the protective mechanism observed in the current research.
"The protective effect of the grapes in this study was remarkable, offering a benefit for vision at old age even if grapes were consumed only at young age," Dr Finnemann stated. "A lifelong diet enriched in natural antioxidants, such as those in grapes, appears to be directly beneficial for retinal pigment epithelium, and retinal health and function."
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