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Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease

Study finds foods high in vitamins, minerals cut chances of macular degeneration

FRIDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- A nutritious diet could help with the health of your eyes as well as the rest of your body, according to a new study.

Eating foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids and that have less impact on blood sugar levels (so-called low-glycemic index foods) can lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), researchers have found.

Citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold-water fish contain higher levels of these eye-healthy nutrients.

AMD can destroy the eye's retina, the sensitive tissue that transmits images to the brain, causing people to lose the central vision critical to good eyesight. A recent study funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 9 million people will have the potentially blinding eye disease by 2010, and that number could double by 2050, with 1.6 million of these people being legally blind.

The study, led by Tufts University's Chung-Jung Chiu, found the lowest risk of developing early and advanced AMD was among people who consumed more protective nutrients and low-glycemic index foods. The conclusions were based on analyzing the eating habits of more than 4,000 study participants and determining their AMD risk from diagnostic photographs of their eyes.

While previous studies have looked at the eye-protective value of individual nutrients and foods, this is the first to look at them in combination, according to a news release issued by the journal Ophthalmology, which is publishing the findings in its May issue.

"Although the compound score may be a useful new tool for assessing nutrients in relation to AMD, specific dietary recommendations should be made only after our results are confirmed by clinical trials or prospective studies," Chiu, who is part of Tufts' Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about age-related macular degeneration.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology, news release, May 2009

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