Eating fruit regularly earlier in life may help ward off macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults, a study said on Monday.
But the report said there appeared to be no strong protective effect from vegetables, vitamins or carotenoids - the compounds that make some fruits and vegetables red, orange or yellow - as some earlier research had suggested.
The study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at data from 77,562 women and 40,866 men who were followed for 12 to 18 years as part of long-term studies tracking them for a variety of health issues.
It found that both men and women who consumed three or more servings of unspecified fruit a day had a 36 percent decreased risk of developing macular degeneration.
“People are living longer, healthier lives and age-related illnesses, such as blindness, can significantly impact an otherwise healthy quality of life,” said Eunyoung Cho, the study’s lead author.
“Because there are a limited number of treatment options for age-related macular degeneration, clinicians and researchers have been focused on identifying factors that reduce risk and can ultimately save a person’s eyesight,” added Cho, saying the study was the first large-scale look at diet and preventing the condition.
The study, published in The Archives of Ophthalmology, is a preliminary one and more research is needed, the authors said.
The report said macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people 65 and older. There are no effective treatments for the condition in which the macula - a small part of the retina - deteriorates, causing a loss of central vision.
SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, June 2004.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD