Glycemic Index (2007) & macular degeneration

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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) appears to share several carbohydrate-related mechanisms and risk factors with diabetes-related diseases, including retinopathy and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The objective of a 2007 study was to test the hypothesis that dietary glycemic index (dGI), which has been related to the risk of diabetes and CVD, is associated with the risk and severity of AMD in non-diabetic elderly populations. Dietary information was obtained from 4,099 participants aged 55 to 80 years (56 percent women) who participated in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). A total of 8,125 eligible eyes at baseline were classified into one of five AMD groups according to the size and extent of drusen, the presence of geographic atrophy and neovascular changes.

Compared with eyes in the first quintile of dGI, eyes in the fourth and fifth quintiles had a significantly or suggestively higher risk of large drusen, geographic atrophy and neovascularization. A significant positive relation between dGI and severity of AMD was noted. There was a 49 percent increase in the risk of advanced AMD (geographic atrophy plus neovascularization) for participants who had a dGI higher than the sex median (women, 77.9 or greater; men, 79.3 or greater). This result indicated that 20 percent of prevalent cases of AMD would have been eliminated if the AREDS participants consumed diets with a dGI below the median.

The association between dGI and AMD from the AREDS cross-sectional analysis at baseline suggests that a reduction in the dGI, a modifiable risk factor, may provide a means of diminishing the risk of AMD.

SOURCE: Chiu CJ, Milton RC, Gensler G, Taylor A. Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86(1):180-8.