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Eye Health - Eating Habits Related to Macular Degeneration - Age Related AMD Linked To Bad or High-Glycemic Carbohydrate Food Consumption

June 22nd 2006

Eye Health - Eating Habits Related to Macular Degeneration - Age Related AMD Linked To Bad or High-Glycemic Carbohydrate Food Consumption


There may be a link between Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and healthy eating habits, according to researchers at Tufts University, and colleagues.  The study by Allen Taylor, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA), indicates that a diet of “quality” carbohydrates can limit the risk of AMD.

The researchers analyzed data from a sub-group of participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) who were enrolled in the Nutrition and Vision Program.  They evaluated data for a 10 year period examining the total carbohydrate intake and the dietary glycemic index statistics. This index is a measure of the quality of overall dietary carbohydrate. 


Taylor believes that the quality of the carbohydrates is more important than the total consumption of carbohydrates.  High-glycemic-index foods are converted more rapidly into blood sugar in the body, compared to low-glycemic foods.

The researchers examined the eyes of more than 500 women between 53 and 75 years of age.  They looked for changes indicative of AMD.  Then they compared this data to the diets, as reported via questionnaires which were administered over the course of the 10 years preceding the eye exams. 

According to lead author Dr. Chung-Jung Chiu, “Women who consumed diets with a relatively high dietary glycemic index had greater risk of developing signs of early age-related macular degeneration when compared with women who consumed diets with a lower dietary glycemic index.”  Chiu is a scientist in the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the HNRCA and an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.


Taylor, who has also worked at Tuft Health Sciences Campus in Boston, says “Dietary glycemic index may be an independent and modifiable risk factor for early AMD.  The likelihood of having abnormalities characteristic of AMD on eye exam more than doubled for women who consumed diets with the highest glycemic index, regardless of other factors already known or suspected to increase the risk of AMD, such as age, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and obesity.”

Taylor added, “We are interested in studying the role of glucose in age-related diseases like AMD.  Because evidence suggests that problems with glucose metabolism, as in diabetes, may cause damaging by-products to accumulate in sensitive tissues and contribute to disease.”

He points out that there are other possible explanations for the relationship. “We cannot say, based on these data, whether or not consuming a diet with a high glycemic index causes AMD.  Perhaps a high-glycemic-index diet is a marker for an overall dietary or lifestyle pattern that increases the risk of developing AMD.”


High glycemic-index foods include white bread and French fries.  Many vegetables have a low glycemic-index.  According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, choosing foods with a low GI rating may help you to control your blood glucose levels, your cholesterol levels, your appetite, lower your risk of getting heart disease, and lower your risk of getting type-2 diabetes.

Macular Degeneration is caused by a breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the region of the eye’s retina called the macula.  The condition is irreversible, and affects central vision which is critical for activities like reading and driving.  It is estimated that AMD affects 1.75 million Americans over the age of 40. 

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Dan Wilson
Best Syndication

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