Macular Pigment and AMD

  • The global population is ageing. Coupled with the often poor western diet and lifestyle that many non-western populations are now adopting, ophthalmologists predict an epidemiological explosion of AMD in the next few years. Given the global cost of AMD was $343 billion dollars in 2010 these healthcare costs will spiral unless effective screening, prevention and treatment strategies are put in place1
  • Screening for low MP by the MPSll is currently the best way to identify patients at risk of macular degeneration
  • There is overwhelming evidence that low MP is one of the main risk factors for having AMD. There is also emerging evidence that increasing MP can slow the development of the AMD, in that those in a placebo-controlled study either halted the decline in Visual Acuity over a one-year period, or in some cases actually improved VA.
  • The biology surrounding MPOD and AMD is very complicated and many risk factors come into play when ascertaining a person’s likelihood to either develop AMD or halt early-stage AMD. Apart from MP, the other equally important ones are smoking, obesity, poor health/lifestyle, excessive exposure to blue light hazards.
  • This complexity, coupled with the fact that, as with almost all clinical devices, different instruments give slightly different (systematic) values calculated via a subjective test. This means that the healthcare professional must ensure a holistic approach to a patient’s risk of developing AMD. Although MP is not the only determining risk factor for AMD and may in many people be seen as normal to good (usually ≥0.5), when taken into consideration with the other risk factors that patients may exhibit will mean they should still elevate MP levels via diet, supplementation and informed lifestyle choices to offset these other risks
  • Healthcare professionals need to take a holistic approach when assessing a person’s overall risk for developing AMD
  • Before creating a pro-active risk management strategy for any patient, all other risk factors a patient may exhibit apart from their MP level need to be ascertained.


The three carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso -zeaxanthin account for the ‘yellow spot’ at the macula and are referred to as macular pigment (MP). They are believed to play a role in visual function and protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) via their optical and antioxidant properties.


What is macular pigment
Fig.1 The Eye

Thick, dense macular pigment is like having “internal sunglasses” to block harmful blue light that can damage your eyes over time.

Fig. 2 MP acts as the eyes’ Internal Sunglasses (courtesy of the American Ophthalmic Association)


What is AMD?


Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a disease of the macula. AMD is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in people over the age of 50. The number of adults registered blind as a result of AMD in industrialized countries continues to rise, primarily due to increasing longevity4. Beyond its inevitable impact on the individual sufferer, AMD poses a growing socioeconomic challenge to modern society5. The prevalence, incidence and progression of AMD have been shown to rise exponentially with increasing age6.It is usually  characterized by a painless, gradual loss and increased distortion of central vision which is responsible for tasks such as reading, driving, watching TV and recognizing faces. Eventually little or no central vision can remain with additional loss of colors which in combination can reduce a person’s quality of life; one third of all we perceive in our daily lives is information gained from our eyes.In 2011 as many as 11 million Americans have some form of macular degeneration, including both early and later stages of the wet and dry forms. As the world population ages the number of people affected by AMD is expected to double within 20 years creating, a ‘Silver Tsunami’ that needs managing through prevention given that there is no cure.


Fig.1 Normal Sight. Fig. 2 Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).


Can I prevent from getting AMD?
Getting regular screening checks using a device such as MPSll is essential to detect, manage and monitor levels of macular pigment. Whether dealing with avoidable risk factors (such as smoking, poor diet, obesity, excessive exposure to screens, high alcohol consumption) or unavoidable risk factors (such as increased age and genetic predisposition) it is essential to raise awareness in the general population so that people can make informed lifestyle choices.