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Junk food may increase risk of eye disease

MagazineDecember 2001 (Vol. 12 Issue 9)Junk food may increase risk of eye disease

Decreasing intake of certain fats, rather than fats in general, may help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a recent study

Decreasing intake of certain fats, rather than fats in general, may help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a recent study.

US researchers studied 349 subjects aged 55-80 years and recently diagnosed with AMD as well as a control group of 504 persons with other eye diseases.

Those who consumed foods high in vegetable fat (usually processed or 'junk' foods) had a more than a twofold greater risk of developing AMD than those not eating much vegetable fat. Also, those who ate foods high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, had a 71 per cent higher risk, and those who ate foods high in polyunsaturated fats, such as margarine, had an 86 per cent increased risk.

On the other hand, those whose diets are rich in ome-ga-3 fatty acids and low in linoleic acid, found in corn oil and safflower oil, had a decreased risk of the disease.

These data, although important, need to be interpreted with caution. As a rule, we don't get enough of either linoleic (omega-6) or alpha-linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids. The linoleic acid found in junk food is usually 'damaged' and in the form of trans fatty acids. It could be this, in combination with a low intake of omega-3, that poses the greatest risk to eyesight (Arch Ophthalmol, 2001; 119: 1191-9).


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