There is growing evidence that poor diet plays an important role in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in France. A large collaboration of European Union researchers studying the link between genes and lifestyle on the development of AMD found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of late-stage AMD by 41%. This research expands on previous studies and suggests that such a diet is beneficial for everyone, whether you already have the disease or are at risk of developing it.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains and olive oil. Previous research has already linked its practice to longer lifespan and reduced incidence of heart disease and cognitive decline. But recent work has just shown its positive impact on AMD.
The Mediterranean diet prevents blinding diseases
AMD is a degenerative eye disease. This leads to loss of central vision, which is crucial for simple daily activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read and write. It is a major cause of vision loss in people aged 50 and over, affecting 1.5 million French people. By 2030, this number is expected to increase by 50%, to 2.2 million. This disease is today the leading cause of visual impairment in people aged over 50 in developed countries. The risk of occurrence of the disease increases with age to exceed 25% of the population after the age of 75.
Reduce the occurrence of AMD
For this latest study, the researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires from nearly 5,000 people who had taken part in two previous studies: the Rotterdam study assessing disease risk in people aged 55 and older and the Alienor study. Patients in the Rotterdam study were screened and completed dietary questionnaires every five years over a 21-year period, while patients in the Alienor study were observed every two years over a four-year period . The researchers found that those who followed the diet closely were 41% less likely to develop AMD than those who did not follow the diet.
They also found that none of the individual components of a Mediterranean diet per se – fish, fruits, vegetables, etc. – reduced the risk of AMD. On the contrary, it was the whole tendency to eat a nutrient-dense diet that significantly reduced the risk of late AMD.
For Emily Chew, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, who sits on the advisory board of the research group responsible for the study: “Blinding diseases like AMD are a public health problem just like smoking. . Chronic diseases such as AMD, dementia, obesity and diabetes all have roots in poor eating habits. »
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The dry type affects about 80-90% of people with AMD. In dry AMD, small white or yellowish deposits, called drusen, form on the retina, causing it to deteriorate over time. In the wet form, blood vessels grow under the retina and leak. Although there is an effective treatment for the wet type, no treatment is available for dry AMD at this time. There remains the solution of modifying his diet and adopting the Mediterranean diet.
Benedicte MJ Merle et al. Mediterranean Diet and Incidence of Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Ophthalmology (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2018.08.006