The anti-inflammatory and antiangiogenic properties of Vitamin D may play a significant role in eye health, specifically in the possible prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) among women who are more genetically prone to developing the sight-damaging disease.
Amy Millen, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, and her team found that women who are deficient in vitamin D and have a specific high-risk genotype are 6.7 times more likely to develop AMD than women with sufficient vitamin D status and no high risk genotype.
“This is not a study that can, alone, prove a causal association, but it does suggest that if you’re at high genetic risk for AMD, having a sufficient vitamin D status might help reduce your risk,” said Assoc. Prof. Millen.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that’s looked at the interaction between genetic risk and vitamin D status in the context of age-related eye disease.”
Researchers analysed data compiled on 1,230 women ages 54 to 74. Participant serum samples were analysed for a vitamin D biomarker, 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], which provided a glimpse into vitamin D intake through all sources: diet, supplements and sunlight.
“Macular degeneration has been found to be strongly associated with genetic risk,” Millen says. Among many genes linked to AMD, one of the strongest is a specific genetic variant (Y402H) in the complement factor H gene, called CFH for short. This gene codes for the CFH protein that is involved in the body’s immune response to destroy bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin D shows promise for protecting against macular degeneration because of its anti-inflammatory and antiangiogenic properties; antiangiogenic refers to slowing the growth of new blood vessels, often seen in late stages of AMD.
Assoc. Prof. Millen said patients should not be encouraged to rush out and purchase vitamin D supplements. “Our message is not that achieving really high levels of vitamin D are good for the eye, but that having deficient vitamin D levels may be unhealthy for your eyes.”