As we get older, and certainly after we reach retirement age, our eyesight can start to deteriorate. A common cause is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is reckoned to affect 30 per cent of people who are 70 or older.
Doctors tend to regard AMD as an inevitable consequence of ageing, as the name of the condition suggests, but a new research study shows it can be prevented or, at the very least, its progress can be slowed.
The key, not surprisingly perhaps, is in the food we eat, and specifically the high-fat diet we seem to have in the West. Older people who had a high-fat diet were almost three times as likely to develop AMD as those eating very low levels of fat. Of the different types of fats, high intake of animal fat was linked to a two-fold increased risk, while a diet high in vegetable fat increased the risk to nearly four times.
Once AMD had been diagnosed, diets that were high in saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans unsaturated fats all increased the likelihood of the disease progressing. Processed baked foods, which are higher in some of these fats, increased the risk of AMD progression two-fold.
So what's the solution? Clearly, reduce your total fat intake, and look out especially for processed foods, and increase the amount of fish and nuts in your diet, as both have a protective effect against AMD.
(Source: Archives of Ophthalmology, 2003; 121: 1728-37).