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Healthy diet protects the eyes

A daily helping of 200 grams of vegetables, two pieces of fruit, and fish twice a week, can almost half the risk of 'age-related macular degeneration', a chronic eye disease.

netvlies met leeftijdsgebonden maculadegeneratie
Even people who are genetically predisposed to the disease can reduce the risk. This has been shown by research conducted by Gabriëlle Buitendijk, based on data from the ERGO population study in the Rotterdam district of Ommoord, for which she will receive her PhD on Wednesday 28 March.

Vitamin supplements
Age-related macular generation (AMD) is a chronic eye disease and the main cause of blindness among elderly people in the Western world. The risk of getting the disease increases with age. About 15 percent of the elderly have the disease by the time they are 70. "Although there is currently no treatment to cure the disease, people can have a positive effect on this risk and possibly prevent blindness later in life", says Gabriëlle Buitendijk, PhD student and trainee ophthalmologist at Erasmus MC. "A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of the disease later in life by up to 42 percent. Vitamin supplements with lutein en zeaxanthin can also be beneficial."

The researchers based their findings on the data of 4,200 participants in the ERGO population study in the Rotterdam district of Ommoord. Buitendijk says: "Our study has shown that there are clear beneficial effects after a period of 10 to 15 years. Eat fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, or sardines, twice a week because of the omega-3 fatty acids. And 200 grams of fruit and 200 grams of vegetables every day. Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, and kale as well as red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, including peppers, are the best, as these vegetables are a source of antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin."

Oily fish
The body uses this to form macular pigment, which helps protect your retina. Only 3.5 percent of the ERGO participants was found to eat enough oily fish, fruit, and vegetables. "It is important for everyone, i.e. patients as well as healthy people who may become patients later in life, to know that they themselves can, to a degree, influence developments by healthy eating behavior."

Erasmus MC researchers have calculated that the number of elderly people with AMD in Europe will rise to 20 million by 2040 because of the aging of the population. In the Netherlands, there will be about 700,000 people with the disease. Together with an international team, the researchers discovered genes involved in the development of this eye disease. These genes, together with environmental factors such as smoking, can help to predict who will and who will not develop the disease. The researchers are hoping to market a test soon.

Date published: 27 March 2018.

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