A new Portuguese study suggests that a Mediterranean-based diet can cut a person's risk of getting macular degeneration by one-third.
20 eye care professionals conducted this study at Coimbra University in central Portugal. All in all, these professional ophthalmologists analyzed 6,000 male and female Portuguese citizens over the age of 45.
Of the 6,000 participants, half came from the town of Lousa and the other half from the town of Mira. Researchers wanted a sample group from both a coastal town (Mira) and an inland town (Lousa) to see if there were any noticeable differences.
Researchers noted that people who lived in the coastal city naturally gravitated towards a Mediterranean diet, and, hence, had healthier eyes overall.
For those who don't know, Mediterranean diets often includes lots of fish, fruits, green veggies, red wine, and olive oil.
Rufino Silva, the head of the Ophthalmology Department at Coimbra University, was the leader of this study. He told reporters that people who follow a "broad" Mediterranean diet can expect to see a huge reduction in the chances of developing macular degeneration. Dr. Silva particularly noted the importance of fruit in combating age-related macular degeneration.
While this Portuguese study isn't revolutionary, it certainly strengthens claims put out by organizations such as the American National Eye Institute and the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Both of these groups have been supporting diets rich in green vegetables, salmon, and fruit for a long time now.
Even though macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness for people over the age of 55, many average citizens are unaware of this disease. Most people are far more knowledgeable about eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts, even though macular degeneration affects far more adults around the world.
The main reason the Mediterranean diet works so well is because it's chock-full of nutrients such as vitamins C and E. Also, fruits and vegetables are full of beta-carotene, which has been linked to improved eye health.
Interestingly, Dr. Silva said coffee might not be bad for those seeking to combat macular degeneration. Although coffee isn't traditionally a part of the Mediterranean diet, most of the Portuguese involved in the study were big coffee drinkers. Dr. Silva said there was no indication that a daily dose of caffeine impacted anyone adversely. In the future, Dr. Silva hopes to look more closely into the relationship between coffee and eye health.
While coffee lovers might be off the hook, smokers aren't so lucky. The Royal National Institute of Blind People in the U.K. recently put out a study showing how smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor for developing macular degeneration.
There are two main forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Wet macular degeneration affects a patient's central vision as the retina deteriorates. Dry macular degeneration, however, occurs when blood vessels leak behind a person's retina. Symptoms such as blurred vision are usually first noticed usually after the age 60. There are about 200,000 new cases of this disease in the USA annually.