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Limiting refined carbohydrates may stall AMD progression

Public release date: 8-Oct-2007

Eating fewer refined carbohydrates may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a new study from researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

AMD results in partial or total blindness in 7 to 15% of the elderly, according to the Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group. “Dietary changes may be the most practical and cost-effective prevention method to combat progression of AMD,” says Allen Taylor, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the USDA HNRCA. “It is surprising there is so little attention focused on the relationship between AMD and carbohydrates.”

In the present study, Taylor and colleagues analyzed diet questionnaires completed by 4,757 non-diabetic men and women participating in the nationwide Age-Releated Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The eight-year AREDS study enrolled participants between the ages of 55 and 80 with varying stages of AMD. Taylor and colleagues examined the participants’ carbohydrate intake over a one-year period and used the data to calculate the participants’ dietary glycemic index.

“Our data showed those people in the high-glycemic-index group were at greater risk of AMD progression, especially those already in the late stages,” says first author Chung-Jung Chiu, DDS, PhD, scientist in the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the USDA HNRCA and assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. “Participants who consumed the most refined carbohydrates were 17 percent more likely to develop blinding AMD than the group that consumed the least.”

According to the authors, public health officials believe the condition could spur a public health crisis in the United States by 2020, when they predict the cases of AMD-related vision loss will have doubled to three million.

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