Western diet may increase risk of vision loss in older people

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

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

It 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.

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

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

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.

Late AMD is associated with severe visual loss. Making accurate time-based predictions of progression to late AMD is very important.

In this study, researchers aimed to determine the association between dietary patterns and food groups with the risk of AMD.

They used data from ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities). Participants showed a change in AMD lesions between retinal photographs taken at visit 3 and visit 5 were graded side by side to determine AMD.

The team used a food frequency questionnaire to identify 29 food groups in the participants.

They found that these people mainly had a western (unhealthy) and a prudent (healthy) dietary pattern.

The western diet also called the meat-sweet diet or standard American diet is characterized by an over availability of food, with high intakes of high-fat foods, high-sugar desserts, and drinks, as well as high intakes of red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products.

The diet is low in fruits and vegetables and consists of large portions, high calories, and excess sugar.

A prudent diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, 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 incidence of early AMD.

However, they found a higher incidence of late AMD in participants with a high western pattern score.

The risk of developing late AMD was slightly decreased in participants with a high Prudent pattern.

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

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

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