Women increasing their vitamin D intake could be less susceptible to an age-related eye disease, US researchers have found.
The experts discovered that women with a higher blood levels of the vitamin - found in such foods as milk and fish - were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD is caused by progressive damage to the centre of the retina at the back of the eye and affects about 2% of people over the age of 50 in developed countries. More than 230,000 people in the UK are believe to be partially blind because of AMD.
Scientists concluded that the women with the highest vitamin D intake were 59% less likely to develop the disease than those with the lowest
Researchers in the US examined data on 1,313 women taking part in a major investigation of age-related eye disease.
They found that in women younger than 75, both vitamin D blood levels and consumption of the vitamin from food sources and supplements were linked to a reduced risk of early AMD.
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 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."