Western diet may increase vision loss risk in older people

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Scientists from the University at Buffalo found that people who ate a diet high in red and processed meat, fried food, refined grains, and high-fat dairy were three times more likely to develop an eye condition that damages the retina and affects central vision.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that can blur your central vision.

It is the leading cause of vision loss among older people.

AMD happens when aging causes damage to the macula — the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision. The macula is part of the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).

AMD is a common condition — it’s a leading cause of vision loss for older adults.

AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, but losing your central vision can make it harder to see faces, read, drive, or do close-up work like cooking or fixing things around the house.

AMD happens very slowly in some people and faster in others. If you have early AMD, you may not notice vision loss for a long time. That’s why it’s important to get regular eye exams to find out if you have AMD.

In early AMD, there is usually no vision loss, and there are small or few medium-sized drusen, which are about the thickness of human hair.

With early AMD, there is a low risk of progressing to advanced AMD within the next 5 years.

Late AMD, the stage associated with severe visual loss, occurs in two forms, geographic atrophy, and neovascular AMD.

Making accurate time-based predictions of progression to late AMD is clinically critical.

In the current study, researchers aimed to examine the association between dietary patterns and the risk of AMD in older people.

People who showed a change in AMD lesions between retinal photographs taken at visit 3 and visit 5 were graded side by side to determine AMD.

In addition, the team used a food frequency questionnaire to find 29 food groups in these people’s diets.

The team found western (unhealthy) and prudent (healthy) dietary patterns in the participants.

The Western Pattern Diet (WPD) or also known as the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a modern-day style diet that mostly contains high amounts of processed foods, red meat, high-fat dairy products, high-sugar foods, and pre-packaged foods, that increase the risk of chronic illness.

The prudent diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and fish and other seafood. A high-quality diet provides more nutrient density.

Peanuts, known to the culinary world as a nut but classified as a legume because of the way they grow, fit in all of these diets.

The team found there were no strong associations between either dietary pattern and the risk of early AMD.

However, the team found a higher risk of late AMD in participants who ate a Western diet.

The risk of developing late AMD was decreased, but not strong enough in people with a Prudent diet pattern.

Based on these findings, the team suggests that diet patterns were not strongly linked to the risk of early AMD. However, eating a Western pattern diet may be a risk factor for the development of late AMD.

The research is published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology and was conducted by Shruti Dighe et al.

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