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Update on Diet and AMD Risk

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that diet significantly influences the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in people ages 50 and older.

Maintaining a healthy diet is even more important than one’s genetics when determining if a patient is at risk of developing early or late AMD, according to Emily Chew, M.D., a nationally-known retina specialist and researcher with the National Eye Institute.

At a recent scientific meeting, Dr. Chew noted the results of the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which found that regularly eating fish, and greater consumption of other foods containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids offered a protective effect against AMD. Regular consumption of nuts may also reduce AMD risk, Blue Mountains investigators reported in Archives of Ophthalmology.

Eating a Mediterranean-inspired diet, emphasizing more plant-based foods and less dairy may reduce the risk of developing AMD, Portuguese researchers report. Participants in the Coimbra Eye Study who ate more vegetables, legumes such as beans, fish, cereals and especially fruits were found to have a lower frequency of AMD. In fact, people in the study who ate about 5 ounces of fruit each day were almost 15 percent less likely to have AMD. Investigators were surprised to find that people who consumed more caffeine were less likely to have AMD. These findings were reported in a paper presented at last year’s annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

A recent study in mice found that development of AMD could be arrested by switching from a high glycemic diet (starches as are found in white bread) to low glycemic (starches found in whole grains). The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by investigators at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

AMD damages the macula, the most sensitive part of the retina located in the back of the eye. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp central vision. When the macula is damaged, the center of the field of vision may appear blurry, distorted or dark

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