Mediterranean diet may help preserve your vision

A Mediterranean-style diet might significantly reduce your risk of a major cause of blindness, a new study suggests.

Poor diet is emerging as an important factor in the development of a degenerative eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It's a leading cause of vision loss among older Americans.

Quitting a poor diet

"You are what you eat," said Dr Emily Chew, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an adviser to the research group that conducted the study.

"Chronic diseases, such as AMD, dementia, obesity and diabetes, all have roots in poor dietary habits. It's time to take quitting a poor diet as seriously as quitting smoking," Chew said in an academy news release.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from nearly 5 000 people, aged 55 and older, in the Netherlands. Those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 41% less likely to develop late-stage AMD than those who did not follow the diet.

Loss of central vision

A Mediterranean diet favours vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, olive oil and fish over meat. The study found that, on their own, none of those individual components reduced the risk of late-stage AMD. Rather, it was the overall diet that significantly reduced the risk.

However, the study cannot prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

AMD causes loss of central vision, which is crucial in everyday activities such as driving, reading and writing. It affects 1.8 million Americans, and that number is expected to rise to nearly three million by 2020, the researchers said.

The study findings were published online recently in the journal Ophthalmology.

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