A new study, which analysed data from a pair of previous study populations, found that people aged 55 and over who maintained a Mediterranean-style diet reduced their risk of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 41%.
The second study was the Alienor study, in which patients aged 65 years and older were seen by ophthalmologists every 2 years, beginning in 2006, but only followed over a four-year period so far. Participants in the Alienor study are recruited from the Three-City study, which has been following patients in several regions of France.
Nearly 5000 (n= 4996) participants from the previous studies were included in the current study, 155 of which experienced advanced AMD. The majority of the patients, 4446 (88.96%), came from the Rotterdam study, while the other 550 came from the Aleinor study.
The investigators used the MeDi, a scale designed to assess how closely a person’s diet matches the Mediterranean diet. For example, the scale will attribute a point if the person eats 4 or more tablespoons of olive oil per day. Higher scores indicate a person’s greater adherence to the diet.
Merle and company then compared those that had high scores (6-9 points) with those that had lower scores on the MeDi (0-3.) They found that those who had higher scores had a 41% less chance of developing late-stage AMD. Investigators also checked to see if any individual aspect of the diet, for example eating a lot of fish or a lot of fruit without otherwise following a Mediterranean-style diet impacted the likelihood of developing AMD. None did.
Emily Chew, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, who serves on an advisory board to the research group conducting the study, recently joked in a statement regarding the study that “you are what you eat.”
"I believe this is a public health issue on the same scale as smoking,” Chew said. “Chronic diseases such as AMD, dementia, obesity, and diabetes, all have roots in poor dietary habits. It's time to take quitting a poor diet as seriously as quitting smoking."