Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Cut by Fruit and Caffeine in Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean diet saladA paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Academy of Opthomology found that a fruit-heavy Mediterranean diet and caffeine appeared to reduce the risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). For the first time caffeine has been shown to protect against this eye disease.

Not a fad, this diet has been traditionally eaten in countries near the Mediterranean ocean. This sensible diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fish and healthy fats. It includes a limited amount of butter, red meats, refined carbohydrates and refined sugar. This diet has been linked to reduced dementia risk1, reduced heart disease, and improved male fertility.

The head researcher works at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. It looked at a population of 883 seniors in Portugal and graded their adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Specifically, they focused on the amount of fruit and caffeine consumed. Half were in the early stages of ARMD, and half had healthy vision.

The researchers found that subjects with the highest diet adherence scores had a 35% lower risk of having ARMD. Subjects who ate at least 5 ounces of fruit per day were 15% less likely to have early-stage ARMD.

Caffeine, ARMD & Mediterranean Diet

Caffeine is not technically part of the Mediterranean Diet. However, this stimulant is commonly consumed in the form of tea and coffee in the region. The researchers analyzed consumption of micronutrients, including antioxidants like caffeine, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Higher consumption of these micronutrients was associated with lower ARMD.

This study is unique because it emphasized both fruit and caffeine (preferably in the form of green or black tea or limited amount of coffee). However, it is not the first study on ARMD and the diet. See other studies.

At Natural Eye Care, we promote a modified version of the Mediterranean Diet for vision health. In some countries, the diet includes unhealthy fats. We recommend olive oil (particularly first cold pressed, extra virgin), which is heart-healthy. Instead of processed sugar, we suggest natural sweets such as cobbler, fruit, and natural pies with little or no sugar added. Add dark, leafy greens and olive oil daily. Food should be preferably organic to avoid pesticide residue and GMOs. The best seafood is wild caught and low on the food chain. See our Vision Diet Pyramid interactive graphic.

  1. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and risk of incident cognitive impairment by Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD et. al. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182904f69 Neurology April 30, 2013 vol. 80 no. 18 1684-1692