Macular degeneration linked to quality of carbs

June 7, 2006 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Macular degeneration linked to quality of carbs

Scientists from the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University have found that the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may partly depend upon diet, specifically the type of carbohydrate.

Researchers analyzed data from a sub-group of participants in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) who were enrolled in the Nutrition and Vision Program, looking at the total amount of carbohydrates consumed over 10 years and the dietary glycemic index.

A high-glycemic-index diet is one that is rich in high-glycemic-index foods, which are converted more rapidly to blood sugar in the body than are low-glycemic-index foods.

The analysis found that women who consumed diets with a relatively high dietary glycemic index had greater risk of developing signs of early age-related macular degeneration when compared with women who consumed diets with a lower dietary glycemic index. High total carbohydrate intake, however, did not significantly increase the risk factor for AMD.

AMD irreversibly affects central vision, which is critical for many activities, such as reading and driving. The disease is caused by the gradual breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the region of the eye's retina called the macula.

Prior to the current study, the association between AMD and dietary carbohydrate had not been evaluated. While researchers cannot conclude whether or not consuming a diet with a high glycemic index causes AMD, further research is critical, as it may ultimately prove helpful in preventing or delaying the onset of such potentially debilitating diseases.

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