Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting over 600,000 people. It is also increasing rapidly around the world. It involves deterioration or complete sight loss in the middle of the field of vision. Sufferers typically have enough peripheral vision to find their way around but cannot focus on anything well enough to be able to read or watch a film. As its name suggests, the greatest risk factor is advancing age but research has shown that diet can have a dramatic effect and the biggest culprit is modern cooking oil.
In Australia, Professor Paul Beaumont, ophthalmic surgeon and founder of their Macular Degeneration Foundation, believes the increased incidence of AMD is due to the increase of vegetable oils and margarine in our diet. “Vegetable oils are basically the reason why this disease has become more common. All the data is consistent with it.”
Vegetable oils do not come from vegetables; they are the highly processed products of various grass seeds. They are promoted because they are low in saturated fat, which has been mistakenly vilified for decades. The real problem is that these oils are very high in an omega-6 fat called linoleic acid which competes with the omega-3 fats we are supposed to have in our eyes. The DHA (docosahexanoic acid) component of omega-3 is found in high concentrations in the retina and is an important structural component of the photoreceptor cells. If our diet contains high levels of vegetable oils we consume too much linoleic acid and this displaces the DHA preventing its vital function..
The Womens Health Study examined the relationship between the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids with age-related macular degeneration. The study was extensive, lasting 10 years in a large group of women who, in the beginning, didn’t have AMD but were diagnosed during the 10-year study. Researchers found that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was strongly predictive of early AMD, and is consistent with similar findings for advanced AMD in prior studies. This supports the conclusion that both the level of omega-3 fatty acids and its ratio to omega-6 fatty acids are important in determining risks of AMD.
The conclusions of these studies are that regular consumption of omega-3 significantly reduces the risk of AMD, and this research gives strong evidence to support the role for omega-3 in the primary prevention of AMD, and perhaps a reduction in chances of developing advanced AMD.
The health authorities tell us to reduce the consumption of traditional fats like butter, lard and fatty meat and replace them with vegetable oils. While they do so, the incidence of blindness accelerates around the world. Vegetable oils are used in almost all processed foods, which is another reason to eat real food, which comes from a farmer or fisherman and not a factory.