SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. Age-related macular degeneration (maculopathy) is a leading cause of blindness in both Australia and the United States. There is some evidence that atherosclerosis and macular degeneration may both be related to a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. A large Australian study (Blue Mountain Eye Study) now confirms this connection by examining cholesterol intake, monounsaturated fat, and fish consumption.
The study involved 3654 men aged 49 years or older who completed a 145-item, semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire and also underwent a detailed eye examination including stereoscopic macular photography. Among the participants there were 240 cases (6.5%) of early-stage degeneration and 72 cases (2%) of late-stage disease. The study results confirmed that the incidence of late-stage macular degeneration was almost 3 times higher among the men with a daily cholesterol intake of 400 mg or more than among the men with an intake of 231 mg/day or less. Somewhat surprisingly there was also a strong correlation between the intake of monounsaturated fat (olive oil) and the incidence of early-stage macular degeneration. The men with an intake of 34 grams/day or more had a 48% greater incidence than the men with an intake of 25 grams/day or less. Regular fish consumption was found to be highly protective. The men who ate fish more than once a week had a 50% lower incidence of late-stage macular degeneration than did the men who ate fish less than once per month.
Smith, Wayne, et al. Dietary fat and fish intake and age-related maculopathy. Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol. 118, March 2000, pp. 401-04.
Ophthalmologist Resources: several ophthalmology CME courses discuss dietary and vitamin deficiencies and potential therapeutic interventions for macular degeneration.