The Mediterranean diet has already shown in many studies to reduce cancer risk and improve heart health. Now, a new study is connecting the diet to a reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The most common eye condition for adults over age 50, age-related macular degeneration is a genetic disease in which a part of the eye called the macula deteriorates. As the macula deteriorates, central vision is affected though peripheral vision remains clear. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in Americans age 65 and older and approximately 11 million people in the US suffer from the disease.
This new study consisted of 883 people age 55 and older located in Central Portugal. The participants who more closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 35% decreased risk of having AMD. The Mediterranean diet mainly consists of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and cooking with olive oil. In this study, researchers also found that fruits and caffeine were especially beneficial.
Although caffeine is not considered a part of the Mediterranean diet, it is common for individuals who live in Mediterranean countries to consume coffee and tea. Study co-author Dr. Joao Figueira says that the link between caffeine and AMD makes sense because coffee is high in antioxidants and several studies have already shown that antioxidants help protect against age-related macular degeneration and have health benefits beyond ophthalmology.