18 September 2017
By Miss Sudeshna Patra,
Consultant Eye Surgeon at Spire Roding Hospital
One question I am often asked by patients with macular degeneration is "Does a healthy diet reduce or reverse sight loss?’"
The simple answer is yes. A universally known - and often ignored - truth is a healthy well balanced diet is always a good idea. The longer and more complicated answer plunges us into the great debate around the effectiveness of the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (‘AREDS)’ formulations (a specific combination of anti-oxidants and minerals in a single pill) and the proposed benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. Let's take a look at some of the evidence.
Macular Degeneration and the eye:
Macular degeneration affects approximately 600,000 people in the UK . It is caused by ageing or 'wear and tear' of the retina and can cause permanent sight loss. There is no known cure.
The Mediterranean-style diet:
A recent study  has shown that the risk for age-related macular degeneration can be cut by more than one-third by eating a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, and lean meats. In the study the everyday diet of the participants was scored from 0 to 9 with a score of 9 indicating a Mediterranean-style diet and 0 a completely different diet.
The study found that macular degeneration was less likely in people with a score of 6 and above and in people who ate more fruit. For people who ate the equivalent of one apple each day there was a 15% decrease in the risk for age-related macular degeneration; for those who ate the equivalent of two apples each day, there was a 20% decrease.
Other studies  have reported that a diet rich in food with a high glycemic index (GI) is a risk factor for macular degeneration. High GI foods (GI > 70) such as white rice, white bread and potatoes should be avoided whereas whole grains, lentils, and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli are beneficial.
Another large study  showed that eating oily fish at least once a week was associated with a reduced risk of developing wet macular degeneration.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies 1 and 2 (AREDS)  found that a specific formulation of antioxidants and minerals reduced the risk of patients with certain types of macular degeneration from progressing to severe disease by 25% over 5 years. The doses of the individual antioxidants and minerals in the AREDS formulation are higher than would be found in a normal healthy diet hence the need for ‘supplementation’. It is also useful to note that the AREDS formulation does not replace the need to eat a balanced healthy diet and that it provides no benefit to the general population for prevention of macular degeneration. It should only be taken if prescribed by an eye doctor specializing in the treatment of macular degeneration.
Life style and medical tips to keep your eyes healthy:
- Stop smoking
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meat
- Eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and a once weekly portion of oily fish
- Avoid white rice, white bread and potatoes
- Try to exercise at least 3 times a week
- See an eye doctor immediately if you develop sudden sight loss, missing bits of vision, blobs or crooked lines
- Take an AREDS formulation if advised by your eye doctor
Miss Sudeshna Patra holds clinics at The Spire Roding Private Hospital on Wednesdays evening.
To book an appointment call our Private Patient Executives on 020 8709 7817 or enquire here.
The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.
 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2016 Annual Meeting: Poster PO278. Presented October 16, 2016 (data from the Coimbra Eye Study)
 Kaushal S et al. Dietary glycaemic index and the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr 2008 Oct;88(4):1104-1110
 Augood C et al. Oily fish consumption, dietary docosahexaenoic acid and eucosapentaenoic acid intakes and associations with neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;88(2):398-406. (EUREYE study)