Dietary fats may increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration

December 08, 2003

CHICAGO - High intake of dietary fats may increase the risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration, according to an article in the December issue of The Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to information in the article, age-related macular degeneration (AMD, a common, progressive eye disease in older people that causes blindness) is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness in the United States and in other developed countries. Six percent to eight percent of people aged 75 and older have the advanced stages of AMD associated with blindness. It is estimated that more than eight million people have the intermediate stages of AMD, and of these about 1.3 million people will develop advanced AMD within the next five years.

Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., Sc.M., of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, and colleagues evaluated the associated between dietary fat intake, including specific types of fat, on rates of progression of AMD in a large population at risk for vision loss.

The researchers studied 261 patients aged 60 or older who had some sign of AMD in at least one eye. Participants were followed for an average of 4.6 years and completed food frequency questionnaires designed to measure the amounts and kinds of foods eaten in the previous week.

The researchers found that consumption of dietary fats and fat-containing food groups modified the risk of progression to advanced AMD, whereas fish and nut consumption reduced the risk.

"In this prospective longitudinal study, we found that higher levels of dietary fat intake were associated with the progression of AMD to the advanced stages associated with visual loss," the authors write. "Specifically, higher intake of vegetable fat, and to a lesser extent animal fat, increased rates of progression. Saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and transunsaturated fats were also related to progression. Food groups with higher levels of these fats, particularly processed baked goods, were also associated with a higher rate of progression of AMD, except for nuts, which were protective. Thus, dietary intake of fat, including specific types of fat as well as fat-containing foods, is a potentially important behavior that can modify the outcome for patients who already have the early or intermediate forms of AMD," write the researchers.
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(Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121:1728-1737. Available post-embargo at archophthalmol.com) Editor's Note: This study was supported by grants from the Foundation Foghting Blindness Inc., Owings Mills, Md.; the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, Inc., Northboro; Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., New York; the Epidemiology Unit Research Fund, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston; and a Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award from Research to Prevent Blindness (Dr. Seddon).

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org .

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