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Eating Foods With the Right Nutrients May Save your Sight as you Age

A diet high in protective nutrients and low glycemic index (GI) foods may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) according to a new cross-sectional study published in the May 2009 issue of the journal Ophthalmology.

AMD is a progressive disease that attacks the macula of the eye that affects over 15 million Americans.  It is the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness in the Western world.

The GI value of a food is calculated by measuring how fast the carbohydrates it contains raise blood sugar levels. Foods such as artichokes, avocados and peanuts are low GI foods and therefore have little impact on blood sugar fluctuations.

Researchers from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts analyzed data of 4,003 participants from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).  AREDS was a large clinical trial sponsored by National Eye Institute meant to analyze the risk factors for AMD and evaluate the effect of high doses of antioxidants and zinc on the progression of the disease.

The researchers measured levels of protective nutrients in the participants such as vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Using food intake reports, the researchers were also able to measure intake of low GI foods.

The researchers found that the more protective nutrients and low GI foods a participant consumed the lower their risk of developing AMD.

Identifying lifestyle changes that may combat AMD is becoming ever more important. Experts are expecting to see a virtual epidemic of AMD due to the aging of the US population. Currently, 20% of people aged 65-74 years and 35% of people aged 75 years or more in the US have the disease.

Several food sources that have been found to promote good eye health are citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grain, dark leafy vegetables and cold water fish.

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