Nutrition and retinal degenerations

Int Ophthalmol Clin. Fall 2000;40(4):93-111. doi: 10.1097/00004397-200010000-00008.


Considerable progress has been made in the understanding and management of degenerative diseases of the retina involving photoreceptors. Nutritional approaches to treatment have proved successful in the case of the common forms of retinitis pigmentosa (supplementation with vitamin A), Bassen-Kornzweig disease (supplementation with vitamins A, E, and K), gyrate atrophy (low-protein, low-arginine diet and/or supplementation with vitamin B6), and Refsum disease (low-phytol, low-phytanic acid diet). The night blindness associated with Sorsby fundus dystrophy can be reversed over the short term with vitamin A. A significant trend for decreased risk for advanced or exudative ARMD has been reported among those whose diets contain a higher content of carotenoids, such as spinach and collard greens. A randomized trial is in progress to determine whether beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as trace minerals, particularly zinc, will modify the course of ARMD. The difficulties that patients with retinal degenerations face as a result of their diminishing vision, sometimes over decades, cannot be underestimated. Nutritional therapy has proved effective in modifying the course of a number of these conditions; the therapeutic benefit of nutritional modification in diseases that have a genetic basis is of particular interest. Further research is warranted to determine the mechanisms by which these treatments provide their benefit as well as to identify other conditions that may yield to nutritional intervention. Risk-factor analyses of well-defined populations followed over time with food-frequency questionnaires in conjunction with careful assessments of visual function may reveal other dietary constituents that can modify the course of degenerative diseases of the retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet / methods*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prevalence
  • Retinal Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Retinal Degeneration / etiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins