Mediterranean diet cuts risks of age-related blindness: study

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Researchers from the European Union (EU) have found mounting evidence that the Mediterranean diet provides a better and more balanced lifestyle in daily consumption of food varieties that helps prevent potential blindness in later stages of life, said a study released Sunday.

The EU scientists expanded their research on previous studies and discovered that a poor diet plays an important role in developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

In analyzing the connection between genes and lifestyle on the development of AMD, the researchers found that people who maintain a Mediterranean diet, which features less meat but more fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains, and olive oil, cut their risk of developing late-stage AMD by 41 percent.

According to the researchers’ latest study, which appeared in the online edition of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the EU scientists examined food-frequency questionnaires from nearly 5,000 people who participated in two investigations focused separately on disease risks in people aged 55 and older and the links between eye diseases and nutritional factors in people aged 73 and older.

Their studies showed that people who adhere closely to the Mediterranean diet were 41 percent less likely to develop AMD compared with those who did not follow the diet.

The entire pattern of eating a nutrient-rich diet, instead of individual food varieties such as fish, fruits and vegetables, helps significantly curb the risk of late AMD, said the study.

“You are what you eat,” said Emily Chew, a clinical spokesperson for AAO, who serves on an advisory board to the research group of the study.

Chronic diseases like AMD, dementia, obesity, and diabetes are all rooted in poor dietary habits, she said.

AAO, headquartered in San Francisco in northern California, is the world’s largest professional association of eye physicians and surgeons. It has a membership of 32,000 medical doctors, with more than 90 percent being practicing ophthalmologists in the United States, and over 7,000 members abroad.