This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
The list of benefits of the Mediterranean diet keeps growing. Researchers have found it may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness, by one-third. The high fruit content of the diet was determined to be especially beneficial.
A wealth of studies support the advantages of the Mediterranean diet, which consists of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and fatty fish. The diet limits the consumption of red meat and uses herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food. It’s been associated with less physical and mental debility in older adults, as well as a lower incidence of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.
The Link Between Diet and AMD Risk
Because little research has been conducted on the Mediterranean diet’s effect on eye disease, scientists at the University of Coimbra in Portugal undertook a study to determine if it influenced the risk of AMD. The population of the investigation was 55 years of age and older. They lived in the central part of the country, where most residents eat a Mediterranean diet plentiful in the fruits and vegetables grown in the area. Of the 883 people involved, 449 had early-stage AMD with no vision loss, while 434 didn’t have AMD.
The diets consumed between 2013 and 2015 were assessed with validated food questionnaires that included lifestyle information on topics such as weight along with smoking and exercise habits. Each person’s diet was rated on a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 indicating the closest adherence to the Mediterranean eating plan.
Of those who scored below a 6, indicating they didn’t follow the diet closely, 50 percent had AMD. Conversely, of those who scored above a 6, signifying they did follow the diet closely, 39 percent had AMD. The difference in incidence rates represents a 35 percent reduced risk of the disease.
The Fruit Connection
Fruit proved to be a particularly beneficial component of the diet. People who ate the equivalent of one apple per day had a 15 percent decrease in AMD risk, and those who ate the equivalent of two apples per day had a 20 percent reduction in the risk.
The Caffeine Connection
Because caffeine is a powerful antioxidant that protects against other conditions, the researchers included an examination of it in the study. Although caffeine isn’t a part of the Mediterranean diet per se, coffee and tea are common beverages in Mediterranean countries. Of the participants who consumed 78 milligrams per day, 54.4 percent didn’t have AMD and 45.1 percent did have AMD. The study is the first to show the benefit of caffeinated beverages for eye disease.
“This research adds to the evidence that a healthy, fruit-rich diet is important to health, including helping to protect against macular degeneration,” said lead study author Rufino Silva, in a recent statement. The findings were presented at the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.