18-year study links 'Western' diet to vision loss

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags vision Macular degeneration Amd western diet

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1.8 million people aged 40 and above are living with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the United States. The CDC also said AMD is the leading cause of permanent impairment of reading or close-up vision among those 65 years and older.

A new study, spanning nearly two decades, investigates dietary patterns and the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The research, the first of its kind, has found an association between a poor diet and AMD.

The study’s lead author Amy Millen, associate professor in the department of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, said people are aware of cardiovascular and obesity risks when it comes to diet, but much of the public does not know that eating unhealthy can lead to vision loss​. 

The study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology​, included nearly 1,300 people from a nationally representative sample. There were 117 who had early AMD, and 27 had late AMD. Over a span of 18 years, participants completed surveys about their diets twice. 

The research team studied data from a 66-line item food frequency questionnaire, which was used to identify 29 food groups. The researchers categorized diet patterns into two groups. The first, called "prudent," or healthful. The other is called "Western," which included large amounts of "processed and red meat, fried food, dessert, eggs, refined grains, high fat dairy, and sugar sweetened beverages."

The study found that people who ate Western diets were three times more likely to develop late-stage age-related macular degeneration.

Foods linked to a higher AMD risk include:

  • Red and processed meats
  • Fats, such as margarine and butter
  • High-fat dairy
  • Fried foods.

"What you eat seems to be important to your vision, and to whether or not you have vision loss later in life,"​ said Millen. However, She noted that since the study was observational, it couldn't prove that eating healthy foods would reduce the risk of AMD. 

"Diet is one way you might be able to modify your risk of vision loss from age-related macular degeneration.” 


Source: British Journal of Ophthalmology

06 December 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2019-314813

“Diet patterns and the incidence of age-related macular degeneration in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study” 

Authors: S. Dighe, et al

Related topics Research

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