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Mediterranean Diet Can Prevent Blindness

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People who intently comply with the Mediterranean diet, especially those who have high fruit intake, may less likely develop age-related macular degeneration by around 1/3, a study showed. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness. The results of this study were presented at the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This study is the first to show that caffeine may actually protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Previous research have demonstrated the health advantages of the Mediterranean diet , which encourages eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy fats and fish, and limiting red meat and butter. The food plan has been proven to fortify heart health and diminish the risk for cancer, but there was little study on whether it also has advantages on eye health. To determine this, researchers studied a Portuguese population to observe whether adherence to the diet impacted men and women’s risk of AMD. Their findings revealed a significant decrease in risk in individuals who ate a Mediterranean diet in most cases, and chiefly among people who consumed more fruit and caffeine.

Consuming A Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at the University of Coimbra in Portugal studied 883 individuals ages 55 or older in the said country between 2013 and 2015. Around 449 of the subjects had AMD in its early stages before blindness, and 434 didn’t have AMD. Researchers evaluated their diets using a questionnaire and asked how they ate foods related to the Mediterranean food plan. The more they ate meals related to the diet, the bigger the rating, from 0-9. Individuals who carefully followed the diet scored a 6 or higher.

The results showed that adherence to the Mediterranean diet leads to a lower AMD risk.

Of those who did not comply with the diet (scored below a 6), 50 percent had AMD. Of those who did intently comply with the diet (scored 6 or above), only 39 percent had AMD. This represents a 35 percent lower risk compared to those who didn’t adhere to the diet.

The results also showed that intake of fruits were especially beneficial to health. Researchers analyzed consumption of foods and found that people who consumed greater amounts of fruit were much less prone to have AMD. Of people who consumed 150 grams (about 5 ounces) or more of fruit a day, 54.5 percent didn’t have AMD and 45.5 percent had AMD. In summary, persons who ate a lot of fruit each day are 15 percent much less likely to have AMD.

Caffeine and Antioxidants

The researchers also found out that caffeine and antioxidants can protect well against AMD.

Researchers used a computer program to analyze the individuals’ consumption of micronutrients, using the questionnaire. They found larger consumption of antioxidants such as those in caffeine, beta-carotene and vitamins C and E can protect against AMD. Of people who consumed high amounts of caffeine (about 78 mg a day, or equal to one shot of espresso), 54.4 percent did not have AMD and 45.1 percentage had AMD.

While caffeine isn’t viewed as part of the Mediterranean diet per se, consumption of caffeine-containing foods like coffee and tea is long-established in Mediterranean nations. The researchers opted to look at caffeine on account that it’s a powerful antioxidant that is known to be protective against other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Rufino Silva, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Coimbra, Portugal; ophthalmologist working at the Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra; and investigator at the Association for Innovation and Biomedical Research on Light and Image, This research adds to the evidence that a healthy, fruit-rich diet is important to health, including helping to protect against macular degeneration. We also think this work is a stepping stone towards effective preventive medicine in AMD.