How much and what kind of fat you eat may influence your risk of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss, according to new research from New York University.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the US and the third leading cause worldwide. It's caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina or breakdown of certain cells within the retina itself.
In this study, researchers looked at 1,787 women who were 50 to 79 years old when they entered the study, in 1994. All had reported their fat intake for 1994 through 1998, and all were tested for AMD between 2001 and 2004.
Among women younger than 75, those who had the highest fat intake were at 70 percent greater risk of AMD when compared to their peers who ate the least fat.
The reverse was true in women 75 and older, with those who consumed the most fat at 50 percent lower AMD risk than those who consumed the least fat.
Higher intake of saturated fat (found in red meat and dairy products) boosted AMD risk in women younger than 75, but not in older women.
Higher intake of monounsaturated fat (from olive oil, avocadoes and nuts) was linked to lower AMD risk.
Intake of omega-6 fatty acids was closely linked to omega-3 intake, with high consumption of both fatty acid types roughly doubling AMD risk.
Sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, walnut and soybean oil are all high in omega-6 fats. Eggs, meat and fish also contain substantial amounts of omega-6.
It's thought that omega-3 fats, which have been shown in other studies to help protect against AMD, weren't protective in the current study may have been because they wer
It's thought that omega-3 fats, which have been shown in other studies to help protect against AMD, weren't protective in the current study may have been because they were consumed in association with too much omega-6.
The bottom line: High total fat intake can affect your risk of AMD and high omega-6 intake may be particularly harmful because it can negate any positive effects of higher omega-3 intake.
This study was published in the November 2009 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
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