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Preventing Macular Degeneration with Diet

A healthy diet may not only prevent the complications of diabetes, but also reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, another common cause of blindness.

May 17, 2012 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Christine Erber via Wikimedia Commons and the National Eye Institute.

Transcript

More than a million Americans are blind. The four most common causes are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetes.
This, is normal vision. This is with cataracts, this is with macular degeneration, and this is with diabetic retinopathy. And if left untreated they all can end up looking like, this.
We know diabetes, the leading cause of new cases of blindness, and amputations, and kidney failure, can be prevented, managed, treated, and even cured with a plant-based diet. But what about the other three common causes of blindness.
Last year researchers looked at the connection between overall diet quality and age-related macular degeneration, but diet quality based on whose criteria? They based it on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index developed by Harvard. You basically get scored 1 thorough 10 based on each food group. If you consume 5 servings of vegetables a day, for example, your vegetable score is a 10, 4 servings of fruits a day get’s you a perfect fruit score. If you eat vegetarian you get a perfect 10 in the meat department, then more whole foods, less trans fats etc. And based on these crititeria, they concluded last year that advanced AMD was significantly related to overall diet quality.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Plant-based diets may help prevent all four major causes of blindness. I'll cover the other two, glaucoma and cataracts, in my next two videos in this three-part series. See also How to Prevent Diabetes and How to Treat Diabetes. And for an alternative Alternative Healthy Eating Index, see Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score. In addition, please help yourself to the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Preserving Vision Through Diet and Treating Crohn’s Disease With Diet.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Plant-based diets may help prevent all four major causes of blindness. I’ll cover the other two, glaucoma and cataracts, in my next two videos in this three-part series. See also How to Prevent Diabetes and How to Treat Diabetes. And for an alternative Alternative Healthy Eating Index, see Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score. In addition, please help yourself to the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

    • HemoDynamic

      The Bomb you are!!  Without that daily dose of Dr. Gregor’s reviews I would be flailing to keep up with the science and would probably just give up, and go back to eating meat!  Well, not really but I would have resorted to some Tofurkey ;-}

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

         Me too, me too!

  • guest

    I was surprised to read in the last source you cited that “alcohol consumption of 1.5–2.5 drinks/d as ideal for men and 0.5–1.5 drinks/d as ideal for women.” Aside from you previous comments that alcohol doesn’t help people who practice even a minimally healthy lifestyle, I’d always heard that bad booze makes you go blind. Guess there must be some wine connoisseurs on Harvard’s nutrition board.

  • http://speceye.com/ Dr. John Henahan

    This video correctly covers the fact that patients who eat a healthy diet are much less likely to suffer severe vision loss from Macular Degeneration (ARMD).  However, it is also important to NOT smoke and to wear sunglasses to minimize your risk.

    Also, as an eye doctor who has worked with the visually impaired for 20+ years, I have NEVER seen a patient go totally blind from ARMD.  It is a devastating disease that causes loss of central detail vision in the central area of the retina.  But it has no effect on the rest of the retina, and as such most patients are still able to move through the environment without seeing eye dogs, canes for the blind etc.  ARMD takes away all your detail vision however, so reading, driving, watching TV etc are profoundly worsened.  

    For an informative article on ARMD look at this link: 
    http://speceye.com/macular-degeneration-hits-home/

    • Valnaples

      Sorry, now I see in your article the importance of fish oil…thanks! I live in Florida and my eye doctor is also always reminding me about sunglasses too when I go for my routine eye checks…he reminds me about leafy greens too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

       Thanks for the information Dr. Henahan.

      I see that fish oil is really beneficial against macular degeneration and of course other things. I’d be getting my omega 3 from a plant source though. It’s about time I get it as I’ve been neglecting it for a long time.

      • http://speceye.com/ Dr. John Henahan

        Great idea.  I have recently changed to vegetable source EPA/DHA too.  It is more expensive, but I prefer to minimize my animal product intake and I have no worries about residual contamination of fish sourced EPA/DHA.

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          Is Flax seed expensive?  Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio of 2:1.  That’s twice as much Omega 3 as Omega 6!  And it’s cheap.  The only other food that comes close is Chia Seed–It tastes discusting (in my opinion) and looks better on my Chia Pet–Just ask Bob Ross.

          • MJ

             How do you eat your chia seed? I put a teaspoon in my smoothies or pancake mix and was thinking about adding it to salads and soups. I haven’t noticed any flavor (good or bad) from the chia. It’s milder than poppyseeds, in my experience. I’d love to sprout it too. Maybe I’ll have to buy a chia pet!

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Maybe it left a bad taste in my mouth after my parents spread chia seeds all over me and made me stand in a corner for a week to grow my own ghillie suit. No not true but it sounded good ;-}
            James R. Bennie, M.D.
            Redding Family Medical Group
            2510 Airpark Dr. Ste., 201
            Redding, CA  96001
            Ph. 530.244.4034

            ________________________________
            From: Disqus
            To: james.bennie@yahoo.com
            Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:51 AM
            Subject: [nutritionfacts] Re: Preventing Macular Degeneration with Diet

            Disqus generic email template

            MJ (unregistered) wrote, in response to HemoDynamic, M.D.:
            How do you eat your chia seed? I put a teaspoon in my smoothies or pancake mix and was thinking about adding it to salads and soups. I haven’t noticed any flavor (good or bad) from the chia. It’s milder than poppyseeds, in my experience. I’d love to sprout it too. Maybe I’ll have to buy a chia pet! Link to comment

          • Marge

            I make Chia Pudding.  Put 2-3 Tablespoons in a bowl, add some chopped nuts, raisens, some natural sweetener,(I add maple syrup), and some Almond Milk.  Put in fridge till it thickens. Add more Almond milk, if needed for pudding-like consistancy. 

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Sounds Delish!  I will give it a try.
            Thanks!
            ;-}

  • Valnaples

    Yes, Dr. Henahan: I have a high school friend who had cataracts before the age of 50! Her eye doctor said it was probably due to the fact that she smokes. Also, I’ve read of fish oil being very important for eye health; do you think it’s important to also include to stave off eye disease especially as we age? Thanks.

  • LisaKSkinner

    I’d love to rely exclusively on diet and flax seed for my Omega3s instead of fish oil DHA capsules. Is there a standard amount of flax seed that’s recommended for daily consumption? Also, does using ground flax seed in baked goods lessen the efficacy of the Omega3s?

    • Toxins

       Fish oil is quite harmful indeed so it is best to stick with the flax seeds.

      Dr. Greger recommends two tablespoons of flax seeds per day.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/just-the-flax-maam/

      Woman need approximately 1.1 grams of omega 3 per day and men need 1.6 grams of omega 3 per day. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds have approximately 3.1 grams of omega 3.

      Cooking does not degenerate the fats, they remain intact so it is perfectly ok to cook with ground flax seeds as the omega 3 will not be diminished.

      • LisaKSkinner

         Hi Toxins,
        Thanks so much!
        It’s easy to add ground flax seed to baked goods, for example, plus ground flax seeds work well as a substitute for eggs in recipes for muffins and the like.

      • Lawrence

        My understanding is that heat does harm flax seed oil. That is why I use organic, cold pressed flax seed oil.

    • Paul3917

       You can also get long-chain omega-3′s from algae oil capsules which of course, are vegan, but they’re a bit expensive.Whether vegans need too   supplement with long-chain omega-3 or whether flax seed is good enough is uncertain. Dr. Fuhrman is at present running clinical trials to answer that question. Until we know the results, I think I’ll continue to take my algae oil just to be on the safe side. 

  • Ak42

    These videos are great! You get to the point and support it. I have shared these with friends who are checking out all your videos. I have been trying to tell them that plant-based is the way to go. You make it concise and easy to comprehend. Thank you.

    Ann K
    Annapolis

  • Freedomcallyuri

    hello doctor greger.

    i really enjoy your videos , i think you are a great speaker and you connect with the crowd very well . in relation to this video i have a question , do you know of any studys which looked at retinitis pigmentosa and diet ? 

    • Jacquie RN

      Thank you for the kind words. It appears as though little research has been done on this subject so no definitive conclusions can be made. However, it has been suggested by some research that vitamin A may have a beneficial effect for people with RP. One study was recently published in June 2012 in the Archives of Ophthalmology: ω-3 Intake and Visual Acuity in Patients With Retinitis Pigmentosa Receiving Vitamin A (Arch Ophthalmol. 2012;130(6):707-711). The study calculated dietary intake from questionnaires completed annually by 357 adult patients from 3 randomized trials who were all receiving vitamin A, 15 000 IU/d, for 4 to 6 years. The researchers concluded that ʺmean annual rates of decline in distance and retinal visual acuities in adults with retinitis pigmentosa receiving vitamin A, 15 000 IU/d,are slower over 4 to 6 years among those consuming a diet rich in ω-3 fatty acids. To our knowledge, this is the first report that nutritional intake can modify the rate of decline of visual acuity in retinitis pigmentosa.ʺ

  • Erin

    It just blows me away that most people still don’t seem to know that diet and lifestyle choices largely predict health and disease status :(

  • Jason Strong

    I really appreciate this! I’ve just recently heard about this, and have been looking for someone who knows how to work with macular degeneration in Danville IL, and this gave us some insight for what to look for when choosing one. Thanks for sharing!