What is age related macular degeneration?
The macula is an important part of your eye. It is located in the center of the retina which is found on the inside layer of the back of the eye. This portion of the eye captures visual signals and then sends them to the brain for processing. Your macula is what makes it possible to read, drive and see colors and other details.
As your body ages the eye becomes much more susceptible to disease and problems. One common disease in older Americans is known as age related macular degeneration or AMD. This condition impacts more than 10 million Americans, most of which are older than 55.
Diet and AMD - what is the link?
Recent studies have shown a strong link between diet and macular degeneration. One study that appears in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that foods that raise the blood sugar quickly can also lead to an increased risk of AMD. This study took place with more than 4,000 adult respondents all between the ages of 55-80. Participants in the study answered questions about how often they consumed 90 different foods. Researchers paid attention to which foods were high on the glycemic index and how often they were consumed. They found that those that had a diet filled with sugary and starchy foods were much more likely to have advanced AMD in at least one of their eyes. Other studies have confirmed this link.
Why does sugar and starch raise your risk?
Sugary foods and starches are both high on the glycemic index. This index tracks how quickly certain foods raise blood sugar levels. Some foods are high on the glycemic index which means that they raise blood sugar quickly after consumption leading to a spike in your sugar levels. Other foods are low on the glycemic index and help keep blood sugar at a more regulated level. Foods that are high on the glycemic index include white breads and other products made out of refined wheat and sugary foods. Foods low on the glycemic index include whole grains, beans and vegetables. Try to cut processed and refined grains from your diet and to eat more whole grain foods and legumes.
There are many reasons why foods high on the glycemic index may lead to AMD. One reason may be that a spike in blood sugar damages the eye. It is believed that the rush and fall in blood sugar from these foods can lead to cell toxicity and membrane damage. The retinal damage that occurs from this rise and fall in blood sugar may be similar to the eye damage that occurs in those with diabetes.
Foods that lower AMD risk
Studies have also shown that your risk for macular degeneration can be lowered by consuming the right foods. For example fish and other foods that are high in Omega 3s may protect your eyes from the damage that leads to AMD. Foods that are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin like broccoli and spinach can also protect your eyes. Other foods that have shown benefit for eye health include nuts, egg yolks, and olive oil. Avoiding trans fats, which are commonly found in processed foods, is also important.
If you want to protect yourself and reduce your risk for age related macular degeneration you can easily start by watching your diet. This is a simple and noninvasive way to take care of your eyes. While diet will not entirely eliminate your risk for this disease it is a great way to lower your risk. Focus on eating a nutritious diet filled with foods that are low on the glycemic index and make room in your meals for eye healthy foods like nuts, fish, leafy greens and olive oil. Your eyes will thank you for it and your body will feel better as well.