Health: This diet leads to vision loss more often

Health: This diet leads to vision loss more often

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How nutrition affects eyesight

When people eat a diet high in red and processed meat, fried foods, refined cereals, and high-fat dairy products, they develop eye damage to the retina three times more often, according to a recent study.

A recent study by the University at Buffalo found that an unhealthy diet increased the risk of retinal eye diseases. Such diseases are known as age-related macular degeneration. The results of the study were published in the "British Journal of Ophthalmology".

What is age-related macular degeneration?

A diet high in red and processed meat, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products increases the likelihood of so-called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). With the disease, the retina is damaged and a person's central vision is impaired. According to current knowledge, age-related macular degeneration is considered irreversible.

Diet plays an important role in our eyesight

Treatment of late neovascular age-related macular degeneration is invasive and expensive. There is no treatment for geographic atrophy, the other form of late AMD, which also causes vision loss. "It is in our interest to recognize the disease early and to prevent the development of late AMD," says study author Shruti Dighe in a press release. The finding that nutrition plays an important role in AMD is therefore extremely interesting.

Does the Western diet favor late AMD?

It turned out that a western eating pattern, which is characterized by high consumption of red and processed meat, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products, could be a risk factor for the development of late AMD. In the current study, however, western diets were not associated with early AMD development.

Participants were medically monitored for around 18 years

The researchers examined the occurrence of early and late AMD over a period of approximately 18 years in the participants of the so-called Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Data on 66 different foods that the participants claimed they had consumed regularly between 1987 and 1995 were analyzed.

Frequent consumption of unhealthy food affected eyesight

The researchers found that people who had no or early AMD at the start of the study and reported frequent consumption of unhealthy foods were more likely to develop eye disease that threatened eyesight about 18 years later. This study, conducted in the United States, is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between dietary patterns and the development of AMD over time.

How can early AMD be determined?

Early AMD is asymptomatic, which means people often don't know they have it. To recognize the disease, medical professionals need to review a photo of the person's retina and look for pigment changes and the development of glands (yellow deposits of lipids).

What Indicates Late AMD?

With late onset AMD, either atrophy or an accumulation of new blood vessels can occur in the part of the eye called the macula. When people develop these changes, they usually notice visual symptoms. The eyesight of the people affected is diminishing. This is an advanced or late form of AMD, the researchers explain.

Dietary patterns should be considered in research

So far, most research has been done on specific nutrients, such as high-dose antioxidants, that appear to have a protective effect. However, people eat a variety of foods and nutrients. Therefore, a look at the dietary patterns is particularly important.

Those affected have to be better informed

The research shows that nutrition plays an important role. From a public health perspective, people should be made aware that if early AMD is present, it may make sense to limit the consumption of processed meat, fried foods, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products to protect and maintain eyesight. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Shruti Dighe, Jiwei Zhao, Lyn Steffen, JA Mares, Stacy M Meuer et al .: Diet patterns and the incidence of age-related macular degeneration in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, in British Journal of Ophthalmology (query: 27.12 .2019), British Journal of Ophthalmology
  • David J. Hill: Study finds association between poor diet, age-related macular degeneration, University at Buffalo (query: 27.12.2019), University at Buffalo

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