The Link Between Diet and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
As we mentioned in our previous article, What the Glycemic Index means to you, we believe that changes in our overall diet will improve our health – sometimes drastically. This is a follow-up article to share the NIH research about Macular Degeneration (AMD) and the link to a low glycemic diet. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper nutrition is extremely important; and fighting age-related macular degeneration is just one of the many reasons why nutrition is key to your quality of life.
Do you know someone diagnosed with AMD?
My dad had AMD. He loved to read and watch TV, but AMD at first made that difficult for him and later impossible. It was sad to watch him suffer and as he got older, his vision became increasingly more important to him as a way to stay busy and maintain a normal life. I believe that Dad’s sedentary lifestyle and weight struggles contributed to the disease, and I’m sure that if he had information about how to delay or stop this disease, he would have changed his diet and activity level in a heartbeat.
When you watch someone suffer from a disease that may have been even minutely preventable, it becomes even more important to share information. I hope that you or a loved one, by making even small changes, may delay or stop these horrible symptoms. Please read on…
IMPORTANT – this information is intended to be informational and NOT intended to be a substitute or replacement for any medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional for health related issues.
What is Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
Near the center of the retina, at the back of the eye, is a small area known as the macula. The
macula is needed for sharp, central vision, such as for seeing straight ahead to drive, read, and recognize faces. More than 2 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It’s a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older.
There are two types of AMD, dry and wet. Although there are therapies for the wet form, most people have the dry form. Doctors can prescribe certain supplements to slow down damage to the retina. But for most cases of dry AMD, there’s no effective treatment and no way to delay its progress before it impairs vision.
Previous population studies have found that a high glycemic diet is associated with AMD onset and progress. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic load, such as white bread, can be quickly digested and so cause spikes in blood sugar. Carbohydrates with a low glycemic load, such as whole-grain bread, take longer to digest. Their digestion involves gut bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome.
Inspired by findings from their studies with people, a team led by Drs. Allen Taylor and Sheldon Rowan of Tufts University explored the impact of dietary carbohydrates on retinal damage, a sign of AMD. The team hypothesized that switching middle-aged mice from a high glycemic diet to a low glycemic diet would delay or stop retinal damage. The study was supported in part by NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI). Results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 30, 2017.
The team fed groups of mice the same number of calories but varied the type of carbohydrate. They fed 19 mice a low glycemic diet and 40 mice a high glycemic diet. Six months later, 17 mice were switched from the high to the low glycemic diet. Six months after that, the researchers analyzed differences in the three groups of mice, which by then had reached old age.
Glycemic Diet Results
Mice fed a high glycemic diet developed signs of retinal damage. Although the retina of a mouse lacks a macula, these signs were similar to those in people with dry AMD. Certain metabolic changes, such as high levels of cholesterol and insulin, were linked to retinal damage. The mice also had different bacteria in their gut microbiomes. Confirming previous mouse studies, the team did not observe significant retinal changes in mice fed the low glycemic diet.
When the mice were switched from a high to low glycemic diet, the build-up of certain harmful metabolic factors in eye tissue were delayed, stopped, or even reversed. The diet switch also stopped or reversed signs of AMD. Gut microbiomes in the mice were restored to that of mice fed a low glycemic diet. With further development, the metabolic factors the team identified might be used as biomarkers for prediction and detection of AMD and for evaluating experimental treatments.
“Our findings show an interaction between dietary carbohydrates, the gut microbiome, specific biochemical molecules, and AMD features. This work should lead to new approaches to understand, diagnose, and treat early AMD—perhaps before it affects vision,” Taylor explains. “Already anticipated by our human epidemiologic studies, the findings imply that we can optimize nutrition to prevent the progression of AMD.”
∼ Geri Piazza
Going low GI is easy!
It’s all about healthy choices and here are some tips to help you get started from gisymbol.com:
Step 1: Swap high GI foods for low GI foods. Not sure which foods are high or low? Use the gisymbol.com Swap It Tool to search and look out for the GI Symbol on foods in your supermarket. [Note: we couldn’t find the gisymbol tool, but you can also visit The Glycemic Index Database for information]
Step 2: Eat at least one serving of a low GI carbohydrate food at each meal, and choose low GI snacks.
Step 3: Keep your eye on serving sizes. Eating too much food, even if it’s a healthy choice, isn’t good for you.
|Breakfast||Most flaked corn, wheat and puffed rice cereals||Traditional porridge, natural muesli or cereals with the GI Symbol|
|Lunch||Fluffy white breads||Wholegrain bread e.g. Burgen, Tip Top 9 Grain & Helga’s Lower Carb bread|
|Dinner||Jasmine rice||Low GI White rice or Brown rice e.g. SunRice Doongarra Low GI rice|
- Long-Term Benefits of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments
- The Genetics of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- Learn About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Thank you for visiting with us today, we hope you found this article beneficial. We wish you the best of health!
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