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Vitamin D & Eye Health Questioned

Friday, August 17, 2012

A new study published in Archives of Ophthalmology questions if low levels of vitamin D actually increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

Data collected from Medicare beneficiaries suggests that vitamin D deficiency predating macular degeneration did not predict onset of either form of AMD.  The researchers claim this held true across racial groups and through multivariate adjustment.
If you don’t track vitamin D science, you need to understand that these findings contradict the 2007 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NAHANES III) that reported a significant difference in early AMD risk between people with the highest and lowest vitamin D levels.
However, this  is the second cross-sectional study designed to access whether vitamin D deficiency predated development of AMD. The first was published in the Nature Journal, Eye, in September 2011.  
Interestingly, contrary to findings in earlier studies, the data collected from Medicare beneficiaries  suggested rates of AMD were higher and vitamin D deficiency surprisingly lower in the white population than in the black population, but neither group showed a significant link between the two factors. We would expect vitamin D levels to be lower in the black population, given that dark skin has been thought to convert less sun stimulated vitamin D than light skin. 
After adjustment for other demographic factors and systemic comorbidities, the risk of AMD onset during the study periods wasn’t significantly higher in either study for those with vitamin D deficiency.
But, let’s not jump to conclusions and stop supplementing with vitamin D3.  

The same journal, Archives of Ophthalmology, also published the study in April 2011 titled Vitamin D status and early age-related macular degeneration in postmenopausal women. It was the one that concluded High serum 25(OH) D concentrations may protect against early AMD in women younger than 75 years.  This later data came from the parent Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study.
Investigative Ophthalmology Visual Science (IOVS) also published a September 2011 study titled, Vitamin D enhances corneal epithelial barrier function, suggesting the vitamin D3 found in aqueous and vitreous humor plays a protective role.

And, Archives of Ophthalmology also published a study in the 2012 June edition that suggests an association between severity of diabetic retinopathy and prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. 

Our recommendation: wait for additional studies that support vitamin D3's lack of role in age-related macular degeneration before you stop getting 10-15 minutes a day of sun, sans sunscreen, on as much skin as possible without getting arrested, and before you stop taking healthy amounts of supplemental D3. 

Ellen Troyer, MT MA
Biosyntrx CEO / Chief Research Officer


Remember to always wear your shades when you are outside, even on days that have a little cloud cover.  Your eye health depends on it. 

Biosyntrx formulations do not exceed the Food & Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommended safe upper limit of any micronutrient. We include 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 in Macula Complete, which is the IOM safe upper limit,  and we include 1,200 IU of D3 in Oculair. 


Association of vitamin D deficiency and age-related macular degeneration in medicare beneficiaries. Day S, Acquah K, et al. Arch Ophthalmol 2012, Aug 1; 130(8): 1070-1. [no abstract available]

Reconsidering the connection between vitamin D levels and age-related macular degeneration. Golan S, Shaley V. et al. Eye, 2011 Sep: 25(9): 1122-9. [abstract] 

Vitamin D and retinopathy in adults with diabetes mellitus. Patrick PA, Visintainer PF, et al. Arch Ophthalmol 2012 Jun: 130(6): 756-60 [abstract]

Vitamin D enhances corneal epithelial barrier function. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Sep 21;52(10): 7359-64 [full study]

Vitamin D rejuvenates aging eyes by reducing inflammation, clearing amylod beta and improving visual function. Lee V, et al. Neurobiol Aging 2012 Oct; 33(10): 2382-9. [abstract]

Other Vitamin D Studies I Found of Particular Interest

Vitamin D, neurocognitive functioning and immunocompetence. Nimiphong H, Holick MF.Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. Nov 2010 [abstract]

Fall prevention and vitamin D in the elderly: an overview of the key rold of the non-bone effects. Annweiler C, Montero-Odasso M, et al. J Neuroeng Rehabil. [abstract]

Vitamin D and the skin. Shahriari M, Kerr Pe, et al. Clin Dermatol. Nov. 2010. [abstract]

Role of vitamin D in cardiovascular health. Reddy Vanga S, Good M, et al. Am J, Cardio. Sep 15 2010. [abstract]

Role of vitamin D in immune responses and autoimmune diseases, with emphasis on its role in multiple sclerosis. Ahang HL, Wu J. Neurosci Bull. Dec. 2010 [abstract]

Low Vitamin d levels in Northern American Adults with the Metabolic Syndrome. Devaraj S, Jialal G, et al. Horm Metab Res. Nov. 2010. [abstract]

Vitamin D and Inflammation. Guillot X. Semerano L, et al. Joint Bone Spine Nov 8 2010.[abstract]

Optimal Use of Vitamin D when Treating Osteoporosis. van den Bergh JP. Bours SP, et al.Curr Osteoporos Rep. Nov. 2010 [abstract]

Relationship between bone mineral density changes and risk of fractures among patients receiving calcium with or without vitamin D supplementation: a meta-regression. Rabennda V, Bruyere O, et al. Osteoporosis Int. Nov 2010. [abstract]

Glycemic changes after vitamin D supplementation in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus and vitamin D deficiency. Aljabri KS, Bokhari SA, et al. Ann Saudi Med. Nov-Dec 2010. [abstract]

A randomized controlled trial of the effects of vitamin D on muscle strength and mobility in older women with vitamin D insufficiency. Zhu K, Austin N, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. Nov, 2010 [abstract]

Nutritional Rickets among Children in a Sun Rich Country. Bener A, Hoffman GF. Int J Pediatr Endocrinol.  Nov. 2010 [abstract]

Will vitamin D supplementation ameliorate diseases characterized by chronic inflammation and fatigue? Hoeck AD, Pall ML. Med Hypotheses Oct 2010. [abstract]