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Diet and Age Related Macular Degeneration

diet and AMD

Diet and Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over age 65.  There are 2 types of AMD, wet and dry AMD.  The treatment for wet AMD is injection of medicine into the eye. Currently, there is no treatment for dry AMD but there are recommendations for dietary supplements, AREDS2 vitamins. Would a change in diet help decrease the progression of AMD?  There has been a recent article that reviewed 18 studies which looked at diet and food intake and progression of AMD.[1]

What exactly is Macular Degeneration?

The article showed that a Mediterranean/Asian diet was beneficial in late AMD.  A Mediterranean/Asian diet is typically a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, legumes, and moderate consumption of seafood.  The use of olive oil in place of other oils/fats was also found to be beneficial; this may be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil.  The review article suggests that the Mediterranean/Asian diet both decreases oxidative stress and reduces inflammation and therefore is protective against progression of AMD.  On the other hand, the Western diet, which consists of red meat, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products should be limited.  The high meat consumption was also found to be associated with increased risk of early AMD in another review article.[2]  In the same review article, they also found increased risk of AMD with increased alcohol consumption. 

Current treatment for Macular Degeneration

Omega-3 fatty acids found in seeds, nuts, and dark meat fish such as salmon, anchovy, mackerel, tuna, sardines and swordfish have been found to decrease progression of AMD.  Omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to be anti-inflammatory while omega-6 is pro-inflammatory.  Omega-6 comes from vegetable oils and animal fats and therefore should be kept to a minimum. The goal should be to increase the intake of omega-3 while decreasing omega-6.

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Another group of foods that was investigated were carbohydrates.  A high carbohydrate diet containing foods like white bread, potatoes, white rice, and refined sugars can increase risk of AMD.  A low carbohydrate diet consisting of whole fruit and vegetables, whole wheat bread/pasta, oats, bran and legumes was shown to have lowered the risk of developing early AMD.  The proposed mechanism may be due to increase oxidative stress from high carbohydrate diets. 

If I'm taking the AREDS 2 vitamins should I take a Multivitamin too?

Choosing a diet that avoids oxidative stress may be protective against progression of AMD.  There is also evidence of sedentary lifestyle and high stress contributing to chronic inflammation, and thus leading to chronic illnesses.  So, a healthy diet with regular exercise not only decreases progression of AMD but can also contribute to improved general health.

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[1]Chapman NA, “Role of diet and food intake in age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review” Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2018 jun 21(Epub ahead of print)
[2]Dinu M, “Food groups & risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review with meta-analysis” Eur J Nutr 2018 July 5 (EPub ahead of print)

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

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