Eating a typical “Western”-style diet—high in red and processed meat, fried food, refined grains, and full-fat dairy—may triple the risk of developing a serious form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), suggests a study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The study looked at dietary-intake data (obtained by questionnaire) from 144 participants (average age 61) in the well-known Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study who developed AMD—a leading cause of blindness—over the study’s 18-year follow-up period.
Based on the participants’ reported intake of 66 items from 29 food groups, the researchers assigned them a score on how closely their diets fit each of two eating patterns: a “Western” pattern (predominantly unhealthy) and a “prudent” pattern (healthy). Those whose diets scored highest on the Western scale were more than three times as likely to develop late-stage (advanced) AMD than those who ate fewer Western-pattern foods. (No significant association was found between the prudent diet score and advanced AMD.)
The researchers adjusted the data for age, race, education, calorie intake, and smoking. Neither diet pattern was associated with early AMD, which usually causes no symptoms—suggesting that less-healthful eating may play a role in the progression from early- to late-stage AMD. The overall number of individuals who developed late-stage AMD was small, however (27 people), so more research is needed to confirm the link.
Also see Eating Right for Healthy Eyes.