Fats (2009) & Macular Degeneration

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Two studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids, fish, nuts and olive oil, help protect against macular degeneration, and trans fatty acids, increase the risk of developing AMD.

Researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia analyzed data from 2,454 people in the Blue Mountains Eye Study of men and women aged 49 and older. Those who consumed one serving of fish per week were shown to have a 31% lower adjusted risk of developing early AMD compared with those who consumed less.

Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia analyzed data from 6,734 men and women aged 58 to 69 in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study. Dietary questionnaires completed over 4 years were analyzed for their diet. Follow up exams found 2,872 cases of early age-related macular degeneration and 88 cases of late disease.

A high intake of trans-unsaturated fats was associated with a significant increase in late macular degeneration, with the top 25% in amount of trans-fats consumption had a 76% greater risk than those whose intake was among the lowest 25%.

They also found that olive oil was a protection against late disease. Those who consumed at least 100 milliliters (about 3.5 oz) per week olive oil were found to have a 52% lower risk of late AMD than those who consumed less than 1 milliliter per week.

For early AMD, those whose omega-3 fatty acid intake was among the top 25% had a 15% lower risk compared with those whose intake was among the lowest 25%.

Trans fatty acids increase cholesterol levels and inflammation, both of which affect the eyes' blood vessels, while omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the retina. Although the main fats contained in olive oil were not connected to macular degeneration risk, the oil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that could be protective. "A diet low in trans-unsaturated fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil may reduce the risk of AMD," the authors concluded.

Reference: May, 2009 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Ophthalmology
Source: Lef.org