Blind World

Fat Intake May Speed Age-Related Blindness.

December 9, 2003.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Consumption of fats, especially those in processed baked goods, may promote the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that is the leading cause of blindness from age 65, new research shows. Fat in nuts is the only type that appears to protect against disease progression.

There are few therapeutic options for advanced stages of AMD, and little is known about modifying the risk once AMD is established, Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues report in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Based on a possible link between AMD and heart disease, the authors conducted a study of 261 patients age 60 or older with AMD. During nearly five years of follow-up, AMD progressed to more severe disease in 101 patients.

People who consumed the highest amounts of fat were nearly three times more likely to experience disease progression than those who consumed the lowest amounts. The association was stronger for vegetable fat than for animal fat.

Fish intake did not reduce the rate of AMD progression, except among subjects with low linoleic acid intake. Eating nuts at least one time each week lowered the risk by about 40 percent, however.

Seddon's group posits that dietary fat may increase AMD progression by promoting plaque build-up in the arteries in the eye, or by producing chemicals that damage the macula portion of the eye.

"A substantial number of people may benefit from raising awareness about the importance of a healthy, fat-conscious diet as a means of maintaining good eye health, as well as cardiovascular health, in later years," they conclude.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, December 2003.

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