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Twin study shows lifestyle, diet can significantly influence course of macular degeneration
Date:7/5/2011

so develop rapidly, causing severe vision loss that can make it difficult to drive, read or conduct daily tasks.

Each twin completed a questionnaire about nutritional and health behaviors. The study found that twins whose macular degeneration was at the early stages tended to consume more vitamin D from dietary sources such as fish or milk than their brothers. Vitamin D may reduce the risk of macular degeneration because it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may also block the formation of new blood vessels that can grow under the macula, leaking blood and causing vision loss in the more severe stages of the disease. Similarly, Dr. Seddon's research team also found that higher intakes of betaine and methionine were linked to a slower progression of the disease. These nutrients have also been linked to epigenetic mechanisms, which is a change in DNA, not attributable to a change in the actual DNA sequence. Betaine is found in fish, grains and spinach, while methionine is found in poultry, fish and dairy foods.

The study also found that among the pairs of twins, the twin who was the heavier smoker tended to have the more severe case of macular degeneration. These results indicate that both genetic susceptibility and environmental factors are important, that epigenetic factors may also be involved, and further underscores the importance of modifiable behaviors, especially avoiding smoking and eating a healthy diet, to help prevent or delay the progression of macular degeneration.

The study evaluated pairs of elderly male twins and used a survey of personal dietary and health habits to determine variations.


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Contact: Julie Jette
jjette@tuftsmedicalcenter.org
617-636-3265
Tufts Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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