Everyone knows an unhealthy diet is inevitably going to lead to weight gain, but a new study finds that it may end up being your eyes that pay the price for poor eating habits. According to a study by researchers at the University of Buffalo, individuals who regularly eat a diet with large amounts of red and processed meat, fried foods, refined grains, and high-fat dairy were about three times more likely to develop the eye condition macular degeneration.
Officially, macular degeneration is usually referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. AMD is irreversible, and greatly affects one’s ability to drive and perform other common daily activities. That’s because the condition damages the retina and affects one’s central vision.
“Treatment for late, neovascular AMD is invasive and expensive, and there is no treatment for geographic atrophy, the other form of late AMD that also causes vision loss. It is in our best interest to catch this condition early and prevent development of late AMD,” says lead author and UB graduate student Shruti Dighe in a media release.
According to Dighe and her team, a typical Western dietary pattern could be a risk factor for developing AMD; such diets tend to favor red and processed meats, high-fat dairy, and refined grains. However, while this research did not find that an average Western diet quickens the development of AMD, it did find evidence that it raises one’s risk of developing the disease in old age.
The study’s authors examined the occurrence of late and early AMD, over the course of 18 years of follow-up research, among participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Dighe and her team used data from 66 different foods that participants reported consuming between 1987 and 1995. Using this information, they identified two major diet patterns among participants: Western, and a healthier diet that researchers called “prudent.”