Women younger than 75 should be able to ward off vision loss from an age-related eye disease using vitamin D supplements, according to research.
Higher blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with a significantly lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Around 2% of people over the age of 50 in developed countries are thought to be affected by the condition, which is caused by progressive damage to the centre of the retina at the back of the eye.
Across Britain more than 230,000 people are understood to be partially blind as a result of AMD.
US researchers examined data on 1,313 women participating in a large investigation of age-related eye disease.
Their findings proved that in women under 75 both vitamin D blood levels and consumption of the vitamin from food sources and supplements were linked to a lower risk of AMD developing early.
Women with the highest vitamin D intake were 59% less likely to develop the disease than those with the lowest.
But the association was only seen with vitamin D consumed in foods and supplements. Time spent in the sun did not affect risk levels, even though the most important source of vitamin D is its generation in the skin as a reaction to sunlight.
The top food sources of vitamin D among study participants were milk, fish, fortified margarine and fortified cereal.
The scientists, led by Dr Amy Millen, from Buffalo University, New York, wrote in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology: “More studies are needed to verify this association as well as to better understand the potential interaction between vitamin D status and genetic and lifestyle factors with respect to risk of early AMD.”
Copyright © Press Association 2011