Mediterranean Diet & Macular Degeneration

The Mediterranean Diet, based on consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, and olive oil has been linked to many health benefits.  The diet, based on foods eaten in Greece, southern Italy, and Spain, is low in saturated fats and high in fiber and monounsaturated fats.

When combined with regular exercise this way of eating has been strongly associated with many symptoms of improved health: decreased mortality, lowered cardiovascular risk factors, and weight loss.  Research now associates a lowered risk of developing macular degeneration with the Mediterranean Diet.

In a 13 year follow-up of more than 2,500 participants of the AREDS studies in 2001 and 2006, researchers found that people with a dietary history most closely aligned with this diet had the lowest risk of developing advanced macular degeneration.  This high score carried even more weight when the participants’ genetic risk of macular degeneration was low.  Because one risk factor is genetic, It should be also noted that when participants had two genes supporting high risk, then the diet-risk connection was not strong.

We have several recommendations to supplement the Mediterranean Diet:

  1. We recommend that you avoid red meat as much as possible and that you entirely avoid processed red meat which has now been strongly tied to cancer.
  2. The antioxidants contained in dark leafy greens are especially important.
  3. Wild seafood contains important omega-3 fatty acids.  But even wild salmon is beginning to sometimes show contamination by heavy metals such as mercury.   It’s probably a good idea to limit salmon to once a week and discover the tasty flavors of other fatty fish. Sardines and herring are lower on the food chain and are great in soups and stews.
  4. If at all possible, go organic – especially for apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes, hot peppers and domestic blueberries.
  5. Exercise is imperative to maintain healthy vision.
  6. Drink plenty of pure water every day.

Here’s the Mediterranean Diet food pyramid:


menu-terms  Get specifics on the Mediterranean diet.

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